Tuesday, May 29, 2012

BP Oil Spill, Two Years Later

"Last November the Coast Guard approved BP’s plan to switch most of its coastline efforts from cleanup to monitoring. The same month BP started drilling its first new postspill well, in 6,000 feet of water at the Kaskida field. In March BP reached a tentative $7.8 billion settlement with roughly 100,000 fishermen, hoteliers and other plaintiffs, avoiding months of courtroom wrangling. That’s on top of $14 billion already spent on cleanup and $8.3 billion on damage payouts. Tourists are again returning to Gulf beaches, as drill bits turn offshore."

The Nation:

More information:
Forbes: BP is Booming

Forbes: 10 Startups Changing the World

Monday, May 28, 2012

Facebook IPO Debacle

"Increased volatility, high correlation among stocks and the flash crash are among a 'whole basket-load of things' that have caused retail investors to be skeptical for several years, said Ron Sloan, who oversees about $11 billion as chief investment officer of the U.S. core equity team for Atlanta- based fund manager Invesco Ltd. 'This is just the icing on the cake.'"

Washington Post:
When Mark Zuckerberg’s stated mission to connect and empower people collides with Wall Street’s actual mission, which is to empower and enrich the well-connected, guess which mission prevails? Wall Street’s, hands down. That’s the lesson we can take from the debacle of Facebook’s initial public stock offering.

It’s really sort of funny, if you’re into dark financial humor. Facebook and its underwriters, led by Morgan Stanley, whipped up enthusiasm for the offering, whose initial price range was $28 to $35 a share, but ultimately was increased to $38. Buyers were salivating. The buzz about the offering was deafening.

Then, at the last minute, some big investors were reportedly given access to an analysis saying that the company’s prospects weren’t quite as rosy as the picture painted in its early disclosure documents. So the big guys, it appears, cut back or even canceled their orders to buy shares in the offering. This late-in-the-game burst of activity may even have had something to do with the Nasdaq foul-up that roiled trading last Friday, the day the stock debuted.

The exit of the well-connected, combined with an increase in the number of shares being offered, left more shares available for individual investors, who paid the full retail price of $38. Then, they got to watch the stock’s sickening slide. As I write this, Facebook is trading 16 percent below its initial offering price. A pretty nasty three-day loss.

The well-connected who canceled their IPO orders — all of which, I’m sure, is perfectly legal on everyone’s part — have had a chance to buy stock in the low $30s rather than at $38. Retail investors who were dreaming of riches and figured they were lucky to be able to buy at the offering price have gotten bagged for more than $6 a share. Even though they may not have actually sold at a loss, they paid $38 Friday for stock they could have bought at less than $32 today. The numbers are even worse for people who bought shares in the open market at prices in the $40s, on the first day of trading.

Who benefited from the way the offering has played out? Primarily, the early Facebook shareholders who cashed out in the offering. According to the most recent available document, early Facebook investors ranging from Zuckerberg to Microsoft to various venture capital funds sold a total of 241.2 million shares in the offering, compared with only 180 million shares sold by the company itself. It’s unusual to see early investors selling this big a piece — 57 percent — of the shares being peddled in an IPO.

During the weeks that the Facebook offering was pending, we saw a steady increase in the number of shares being offered by insiders — all of whom by definition are well-connected. In its May 3 filing, the first with specific numbers, Facebook said insiders would sell 157.4 million shares. They wound up selling an additional 83.8 million shares — the company’s piece of the offering remained where it had been originally set, at the aforementioned 180 million shares.

What’s more, the sellers got an extraordinarily cheap deal from the underwriters, probably because of incredible pressure that Facebook exerted by shopping the deal to firms who were drooling over the prospect of having their name connected with Facebook’s.

The “underwriting discount” — the amount that the underwriters kept for themselves in return for doing the deal — was only 1.1 percent of the $38 offering price, which is extraordinarily low for an initial public offering. By contrast, the discount for Zynga’s offering was 3.25 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ, and was 6 percent for Groupon and 7 percent for Zillow.

This means that Facebook insiders who sold in the offering not only got a high price for their shares, but they also got to keep an extraordinarily large portion of the proceeds.

I’m not saying any of this is illegal — I’m sure that lawyers have blessed every aspect of this, including any selective disclosure to big players that Facebook’s numbers were starting to look a little ugly.

The bottom line: It’s one thing to talk about empowering average people in the Facebook world. But empowering them in the financial world is a whole different game.

More information:
» Washington Post: Questions about disclosure swirl

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Spotlight: Adam "MCA" Yauch

Pioneering rapper Adam "MCA" Yauch of the Beastie Boys died at age 47 on May 4, 2012, after a three-year battle with throat cancer.

Yauch was born an only child in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Frances, a social worker, and Noel Yauch, a painter and architect. His father had been raised a Catholic and his mother was Jewish; Yauch himself received a non-religious upbringing, although his and his bandmates' Jewish heritage was often referenced in media.

Yauch attended Edward R. Murrow High School in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn. In high school, he taught himself to play the bass guitar. Yauch formed the Beastie Boys with John Berry, Kate Schellenbach, and Michael Diamond. They played their first show — while still a hardcore punk band in the vein of Reagan Youth — on his 17th birthday. He attended Bard College for two years before dropping out.

When Yauch was 22, the Beastie Boys, now performing as a hip hop trio (via Rick Rubin), released their first album Licensed to Ill on Def Jam Records. Under the pseudonym "Nathanial Hörnblowér", Yauch directed many of the Beastie Boys' music videos.

In 2002, Yauch built a recording studio in New York City called Oscilloscope Laboratories. He began an independent film distributing company called Oscilloscope Pictures. Yauch directed the 2006 Beastie Boys concert film, Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!, although in the DVD extras for the film, the title character in "A Day in the Life of Nathanial Hörnblowér" is played by David Cross. Oscilloscope Laboratories also distributed Adam Yauch's directorial film debut, basketball documentary Gunnin' For That #1 Spot (2008) as well as Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy (2008) and Oren Moverman’s The Messenger (2009).

Yauch was a practicing Buddhist. He became an important voice in the Tibetan independence movement. He created the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization devoted to Tibetan independence, and organized several benefit concerts to support the cause, including the Tibetan Freedom Concert.

Alongside Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys were responsible for rap's first big move from the New York streets to the manicured lawns of American suburbs, due in no small part to Yauch's swarthy, punk-centric raps. Shouting Schoolly-schooled swagger over rock riffs through a mouth of Olde English brew, Yauch's iconic rasp helped launch their 1986 debut Licensed to Ill to sell more than 9 million copies — the first rap group to top the Billboard charts and, in 1987, the first rap group to appear on the cover of SPIN.

As the Beasties grew creatively and expanded musically, Yauch became the band's conscious and spiritual center, becoming alternative nation's most vocal practitioner of Buddhism and, alongside the Beasties, leading the charge for the Tibetan Freedom Concerts. Most recently, he founded Oscilloscope Laboratories, a studio and film production house, currently seeing critical success with the Golden-Globe nominated We Need to Talk About Kevin. The Beasties were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and attended sans the ailing Yauch; a letter from Yauch was read to the crowd.

More information:
SPIN: MCA, RIP: His Beastie Boys Legacy in 15 Tracks
SPIN: An Oral History of the Beastie Boys

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SNL Is Funny Sometimes: Lazy Sunday 2

Samberg references the original with a few jokes, saying he's still "waiting on a check from YouTube" and has this to say in regards to leaving 'SNL': "On these New York streets I hone my fake rap penmanship / That’s how it began, and that’s how I’m-a finish it.”

"Lazy Sunday" is a song and short video by American comedy troupe The Lonely Island. It was released on December 17, 2005 when it was broadcast on Saturday Night Live as their second Digital Short.

The song was written by Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell, as well as Lonely Island members Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, in one night. They recorded the following night in the comedy troupe's office and shot the music video around Manhattan two days later using a borrowed camera. After being quickly mixed and edited by Schaffer, the short was approved for broadcast on the next evening's telecast of Saturday Night Live by producer Lorne Michaels.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Drogba Seals Win for Chelsea in Champions League Final

Washington Post:
MUNICH — Didier Drogba tied the match with a header in the 88th minute, and then scored the decisive goal in the shootout as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich to win the Champions League final, 4-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw Saturday.

The unlikely storyline of an English team beating a German team on penalties in a high-profile match provided a fitting end to a dramatic night, as Chelsea became Europe’s champion club for the first time.

The often theatrical 34-year-old Drogba, playing possibly his last game for the club as his Chelsea contract expires next month, was at the heart of the show.

Drogba sent goalkeeper Manuel Neuer the wrong way on the final kick of the shootout in front of massed Bayern fans in their home Allianz Arena. Bayern’s Bastian Schweinsteiger missed the previous penalty, hitting the goalpost.

“It was written, I think, a long time ago,” Drogba said to British broadcaster ITV of Chelsea’s turnaround since its turmoil in March. “This team is amazing. They never give up until the end.”

The shootout was needed after Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech saved Arjen Robben’s spot-kick early in extra time.

Chelsea’s first Champions League title came four years after losing in a shootout to Manchester United.

Drogba succeeded where his captain John Terry, who was suspended for Saturday’s finale, failed in missing the fifth penalty in Moscow four years ago which would have given the club’s Russian owner Roman Abramavich the Champions League title he has craved.

Abramovich must now make a fascinating decision on the future of interim coach Roberto di Matteo, who took over from the fired Andre Villas-Boas after a last-16, first-leg defeat to Napoli, and inspired a team which then appeared sulky and fading.

Victory also sealed Chelsea’s last remaining route into next season’s competition which is crucial to its elite status and finances.

Everything seemed stacked against Chelsea when Bayern won the toss to send the shootout to the home, south end of its stadium.

After Bayern captain Philipp Lahm scored first, Juan Mata has his kick saved by Neuer.

Cech then saved Ivica Olic’s fourth penalty for Bayern to put the otherwise excellent Schweinsteiger in the spotlight. He struck the post to Cech’s left and covered his face with his shirt.

Drogba stepped up and sealed victory and awaited the adulation of his onrushing teammates.

“He’s a hero. Without him we’re not here,” said Lampard, who scored with Chelsea’s third penalty. “I’d love him to stay. What he did tonight he’s been doing all his career.”

With seven starters from the two teams suspended, Bayern settled quickly against a visiting team set up to absorb pressure. The Germans’ tempo was often dictated by Schweinsteiger, who excelled after collecting a needless yellow card in the second minute for handball.

Toni Kroos, Mario Gomez and Robben all failed to find the target. Robben, the former Chelsea winger, threatened in the 21st when he wriggled through a tiny gap to create a left-footed shooting chance. Gomez, with 13 goals in the competition this season, wasted two good chances to draw level with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

After 83 minutes of Bayern domination, Thomas Mueller broke dogged Chelsea resistance with a header past the outstanding Cech.

Bayern had 35 shots to Chelsea’s nine, and 20 corners to just one, which Chelsea used to great effect. They underestimated Chelsea’s admirable resolve, and Drogba soared to score with a header that Neuer couldn’t keep out.

Bayern Munich: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Jerome Boateng, Diego Contento, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben, Thomas Mueller (Daniel van Buyten, 87), Franck Ribery (Ivica Olic, 97), Mario Gomez.

Chelsea: Petr Cech, Jose Bosingwa, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, Salomon Kalou (Fernando Torres, 84), Juan Mata, Ryan Bertrand (Florent Malouda, 73), Didier Drogba.

Nadal, Ronaldo Face Off

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Godfather of Go-Go Dies at 75

“I’m not retired because I’m not tired. I’m still getting hired, and I’m still inspired,” he said in 2006. “As long as I can walk up on that stage, I want to make people happy. I want to make people dance.”
Washington Post:
Chuck Brown, known as the "Godfather of Go-Go", the genre of music that has soundtracked life in black Washington for more than three decades, died May 16 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He was 75.

The death, from complications from sepsis, was confirmed by his manager, Tom Goldfogle. Mr. Brown had been hospitalized for pneumonia.

Charles Louis Brown was born in Gaston, N.C., on Aug. 22, 1936. He never knew his father, Albert Louis Moody, a Marine. He took the surname of his mother, Lyla Louise Brown, a housekeeper who raised her several children in poverty.

“We’d go to somebody’s house and [my mother] would say, ‘Please feed my child. Don’t worry about me. Just feed my child,’ ” Mr. Brown recalled tearfully in a Post interview in 2011.

Mr. Brown was 8 when his family relocated to Washington, where he abandoned his schooling for a childhood filled with odd jobs. He sold newspapers at the bus station and shined shoes at the Navy Yard, where he recalled being tipped kindly by entertainers including Hank Williams and Les Paul.

As a teenager, Mr. Brown began to flirt with petty crime and stumbled into a disastrous situation in the mid-1950s when he shot a man in what he said was self-defense.

A Virginia jury convicted Mr. Brown of aggravated assault, which was bumped up to murder when the victim died in the hospital six months later. Mr. Brown served eight years at the Lorton Correctional Complex. There, he swapped five cartons of cigarettes for another inmate’s guitar.

Upon his release, Mr. Brown returned to Washington, where he worked as a truck driver, a bricklayer and a sparring partner at local boxing gyms. He also began to play guitar and sing at backyard barbecues across the area. His parole officer wouldn’t let him sing in nightclubs that served liquor.

In 1964, he joined Jerry Butler and the Earls of Rhythm and, in 1965, a group called Los Latinos. Both local acts played top-40 hits at area nightclubs; in 1966, Mr. Brown formed his own group, the Soul Searchers. He originally considered taking the stage name “Chuck Brown, the Soul Searcher.”

With the Soul Searchers, Mr. Brown scored minor hits in the early ’70s — “We the People” and “Blow Your Whistle” — but eventually decided to emulate James Brown by trying to create his own sound. Inspired by the percussive feel of Grover Washington Jr.’s “Mister Magic” and rhythms that Mr. Brown internalized as a child in church, he settled on go-go’s loping, popping cadence.

Mr. Brown sang gospel in childhood and was a guitarist fluent in jazz and blues who could toggle between gritty riffs and fluid solos. But he truly excelled behind the microphone, bringing a warm voice that he could punch up into a hot shout or tamp down into a sandpapery purr or a gentle croon as the drummer’s conga popped and rumbled along.

The influence of jazz and pop standards could be heard in much of Brown’s go-go material. Motifs from jazz staples “Moody’s Mood for Love” and “Harlem Nocturne” became a part of his “Go-Go Swing,” and Brown reshaped Louis Jordan’s calypso “Run Joe” into a go-go classic.

In turn, go-go would have its influence on jazz when trumpeter Miles Davis plucked longtime Soul Searchers drummer Ricky Wellman for one of his last touring bands. Many spotted go-go rhythms on Davis’s 1989 album “Amandla.”

With his group the Soul Searchers, his signature hit “Bustin’ Loose” not only minted the go-go sound, it spent four weeks atop the R&B singles chart in 1978.

“Bustin’ Loose” was “the one record I had so much confidence in,” Mr. Brown told The Post in 2001. “I messed with it for two years, wrote a hundred lines of lyrics and only ended up using two lines. . . . It was the only time in my career that I felt like it’s going to be a hit.”

It was Mr. Brown’s biggest single, but throughout the 1980s “We Need Some Money,” “Go-Go Swing” and “Run Joe” became local anthems, reinforced by radio support and the grueling performance schedule that put Mr. Brown on area stages six nights a week.

But his impact was felt most acutely in the Washington area, where his sound spawned a generation of bands who would pull go-go into focus in the ’80s. Mr. Brown was always the genre’s champion, but he was quick to acknowledge the importance of other band leaders, Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson of Rare Essence, “Big Tony” Fisher of Trouble Funk and the late Anthony “Lil Benny” Harley, among them.

“These guys were the pioneers of go-go, and they each have their own distinct sound and identity,” Mr. Brown told The Post in 2001. “Everybody has something to offer.”

And while hip-hop raced past go-go in the ’80s, Mr. Brown eventually influenced that genre as well. He was sampled by various hip-hop artists, most notably in Nelly’s 2002 hit “Hot in Herre.”

In 1992, Mr. Brown helped launch the career of the late singer Eva Cassidy, recording and releasing an album of duets, titled “The Other Side,” that confirmed his talent as an interpreter of standards.

Formal recognition came late in Mr. Brown’s life. He was nominated for his first Grammy Award in 2011, when he was 74, for best rhythm-and-blues performance by a duo or group with vocals for “Love,” a collaboration with singer Jill Scott and bassist Marcus Miller.

In 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts presented Mr. Brown with a Lifetime Heritage Fellowship Award. And in 2009, the District named a segment of Seventh Street NW “Chuck Brown Way”; it was a strip near the Howard Theatre where he used to shine shoes as a child.

He appeared in advertisements for the D.C. Lottery and The Post and became the city’s unofficial mascot, known for his extroverted warmth and willingness to flash his gold-toothed smile for any fan hoping to join him for a snapshot. An appearance on U Street NW outside Ben’s Chili Bowl could stop traffic.

“I really appreciate that I can’t go nowhere without people hollering at me,” Mr. Brown said in 2010. “I love being close to people.”

Mr. Brown also leaves behind a still-standing genre that, as he once told MTV, embodied the highest of human emotions.

“It’s about love, the communication between performer and audience,” Mr. Brown said of go-go. “When you’re on stage, the people put that love to you and you give it back. There’s no other music like it.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dale Hunter Steps Down as Capitals Coach

Washington Post:
Dale Hunter likes to say that he considers the Washington Capitals to be his team, no matter where his career takes him. But once again they will be his team from afar, following the announcement Monday that he will not come back to Washington for another season as coach.

Two days after the Capitals were eliminated from the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the New York Rangers, Hunter decided to return to his home, family and the junior hockey team he co-owns with his brother in London, Ontario, rather than extend his first coaching stint in the NHL.

“This was a tough decision,” Hunter said Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “It always is, but weighing both sides and going home to be with the family and running the family business outweighed it. I’d love to win the Stanley Cup coaching, but even if they win a Stanley Cup next year, I’ll feel a part of it. I’ll always feel a part of it here.”

While most of the players said they were taken aback by Hunter’s decision, star left wing and captain Alex Ovechkin was unfazed.

“Family is always in the first position. It’s his decision,” Ovechkin said. “It’s his decision, so we have to live with it.”

When Hunter was hired to replace Bruce Boudreau on Nov. 28, he agreed only to finish out the rest of the 2011-12 season and then “revisit” a longer tenure at the end of the year. Hunter made it clear he enjoyed six months behind an NHL bench guiding the Capitals to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals but the draw of going home and resuming his daily duties with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights and help with the family farm in Petrolia, Ontario, was significant.

Hunter wasn’t afraid to disrupt egos of players as he made decisions throughout his time with Washington, from benching veteran players to limiting the ice time of stars like Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. He demanded that every player fall in line to their roles, block shots and make the effort that he expected from them. It wasn’t always the smoothest ride as players voiced grievances throughout the regular season, but by the playoffs the uniformity within the group was evident in every game.

General Manager George McPhee was disappointed but admitted that the news wasn’t completely unexpected. McPhee added that Hunter will remain connected with the Capitals and plans to work with the scouting staffs at the entry draft in late June.

McPhee also said he will take his time finding Hunter’s replacement.

“I don’t know whether it will be by the draft or sometime in August, like New Jersey did,” he added. “We’re going to take our time and get the right person.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

RG3 Named Starter, Trademarks RG3

Saying that Griffin has the ability to do things no one else has done in the NFL, coach Mike Shanahan wrapped up a rookie minicamp Sunday by putting RGIII squarely atop the depth chart.

"He's the starter. Period," Shanahan said.

Shanahan said Griffin will begin working with the first-teamers when the veterans reconvene for offseason workouts later this month. Fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins and last year's starter Rex Grossman will share snaps to sort out the second- and third-string spots.

Shanahan said the Redskins didn't go through all the trouble to get Griffin - trading three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the St. Louis Rams for the No. 2 overall spot - just to have him play backup. The coach said he made the decision even before the three-day minicamp.

"We're going to adjust our system to what he feels comfortable with," Shanahan said, "and we'll watch him grow and we'll do what we feel like he can do and what he does the best. ... One thing the NFL is not used to is a quarterback with his type of speed and his type of throwing ability, so I think we can do some things that people haven't done."

With his announcement, Shanahan managed something that's hard to do - overshadow Griffin himself. Sunday was the first chance for reporters to see Griffin practice in a Redskins uniform, an event that attracted some 60 members of the media to a 90-minute session consisting mostly of undrafted, unsigned players trying to earn a spot at training camp.

Griffin wore the familiar No. 10 that he wore at Baylor, with the moniker "Griffin III" on the back.

"It's been a while since we've been able to do football things," he said. "We've been doing combines and beauty pageants on pro days, so it's time to get to football."

Griffin referenced the challenges he might have as a rookie starting quarterback dealing with veterans. With his disarming smile, he said he even has extra pairs of his shoes, in case the vets want them.

"I can't come in flamboyantly, and I don't plan to," he said. "Come in and earn the guys' respect. Even if they say you've already got it, you've still got to go out and earn it."

According to Shanahan, Griffin was everything a coach could love during the five practices that made up the minicamp. The rookie had studied in advance and arrived with a rudimentary knowledge of the playbook.

"You can see what an incredible athlete he is," Shanahan said. "I was impressed because the first day we didn't have one bust with a formation or a play call, and I don't think I ever had that in any minicamp that I've been involved with."

Washington Post:
In the past few months, we’ve seen a Subway sandwich shop offer a Robert Griffin III sandwich, and a Cap Hill hot dog joint offer an RGIII dog. We’ve seen at least a half-dozen fan-created RGIII t-shirts, and we’ve seen a local ad agency change its name to the RG3 Agency.

This, mind you, before the kid has taken a single snap at the NFL level.

So it makes sense that Griffin, or his people, would be somewhat anxious to take control of this situation before the Redskins officially rename their franchise the RGIIIs.

And thus, this, from ChangeLegal:
Following his declaration for the NFL Draft, Griffin hired an attorney. Thereafter, he created his own company, Thr3escompany, LLC and submitted applications to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a total of four trademarks – RGIII, RG3, Robert Griffin III, and Unbelievably Believable. The first three trademark filings were made for “Shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, pants, shorts, footwear, hats, caps, athletic uniforms.”

More information:
»Robert Griffin III Acrylic Painting by Van Monroe
»The Onion: Grossman Teaching RGIII Everything He Knows

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Caps Look To Stave Off Rangers

Washington Post:
When they host the New York Rangers for Game 6 on Wednesday night, the Capitals will face the greatest challenge to their collective resiliency as they try to stave off elimination.

Washington trails the top-seeded Rangers three games to two in their Eastern Conference semifinal series, and a loss at Verizon Center would end the season. That finality is why the Capitals can’t afford to dwell on the mistakes in the final two minutes of Game 5 that allowed New York to force overtime and then claim a 3-2 overtime victory.

“I think everyone’s realizing that let’s just get it out of our heads now,” defenseman John Carlson said after a video session Tuesday. “Let’s just focus on what we need to focus on. That stuff happens. It’s no one’s fault. There’s no one to blame. As a team, it just didn’t bounce our way."

Trailing 3-2 in a best-of-seven series hasn’t been a fortunate scenario for the Capitals over the course of their history: They’ve advanced to the next round only two of the 11 times they have been in that situation.

Of those previous occurrences, Washington was eliminated in six games six times, eliminated in seven games three times and won in seven games twice. The two victories came in 2009 against the Rangers and in 1988 against the Philadelphia Flyers, when Dale Hunter, now the team’s coach, scored the series-clinching goal in overtime.

After playing 12 close games this spring, 11 of which were decided by one goal, the Capitals know they can give themselves an opportunity to win any contest and that they can bounce back from a loss. Washington hasn’t fallen in consecutive games since late March and is 3-0 after overtime losses in the playoffs. The most recent example came when the Capitals followed up a heartbreaking loss in triple overtime to New York with a tenacious showing in a 3-2 victory in Game 4.

Even rookie netminder Braden Holtby, who has faced elimination in the Stanley Cup playoffs just once — in Game 7 of the first round against Boston — has shown he can distance himself from a loss or poor outing immediately. Holtby has gone 28 NHL starts since November 2010 without consecutive losses.

In the playoffs Holtby is 5-0 with a .959 save percentage following a loss. That drive is why Hunter said he isn’t concerned about the 22-year-old’s ability to rebound.

“He’s a resilient kid and he’s a battler; he’s going to come out and battle again,” said Hunter, who dismissed the notion that there could be a carryover from the Game 5 loss.

“No, the guys are going to come out and battle,” he said. “That’s all you ask from your team, is to go out and battle. We win at home; that’s what we need to do.”

More information:
» Washington Examiner: 25 Best Capitals
» CSN: "To Make History, Caps Must Learn From It"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spotlight: Maurice Sendak

"I believe there is no part of our lives, our adult as well as child life, when we're not fantasizing, but we prefer to relegate fantasy to children, as though it were some tomfoolery only fit for the immature minds of the young. Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do."
Maurice Bernard Sendak was born in Brooklyn on June 10, 1928; his father, Philip, worked in the garment district of Manhattan. Family photographs show the infant Maurice, or Murray as he was then known, as a plump, round-faced, slanting-eyed, droopy-lidded, arching-browed creature — looking, in other words, exactly like a baby in a Maurice Sendak illustration. Mr. Sendak adored drawing babies, in all their fleshy petulance.

A frail child beset by a seemingly endless parade of illnesses, Mr. Sendak was reared, he said afterward, in a world of looming terrors: the Depression; World War II; the Holocaust, in which many of his European relatives perished; the seemingly infinite vulnerability of children to danger. He experienced the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932 as a personal torment: if that fair-haired, blue-eyed princeling could not be kept safe, what certain peril lay in store for him, little Murray Sendak, in his humble apartment in Bensonhurst?

An image from the Lindbergh crime scene — a ladder leaning against the side of a house — would find its way into “Outside Over There,” in which a baby is carried off by goblins.

As Mr. Sendak grew up — lower class, Jewish, gay — he felt permanently shunted to the margins of things. “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy,” he told The New York Times in a 2008 interview. “They never, never, never knew.”

His lifelong melancholia showed in his work, in picture books like “We Are All in the Dumps With Jack and Guy” (1993), a parable about homeless children in the age of AIDS. It showed in his habits. He could be dyspeptic and solitary, working in his white clapboard home deep in the Connecticut countryside with only Mozart, Melville, Mickey Mouse and his dogs for company.

But Mr. Sendak could also be warm and forthright, if not quite gregarious. He was a man of many enthusiasms — for music, art, literature, argument and the essential rightness of children’s perceptions of the world around them. He was also a mentor to a generation of younger writers and illustrators for children, several of whom, including Arthur Yorinks, Richard Egielski and Paul O. Zelinsky, went on to prominent careers of their own.

As far back as he could remember, Mr. Sendak had loved to draw. That and looking out the window had helped him pass the long hours in bed. While he was still in high school — at Lafayette in Brooklyn — he worked part time for All-American Comics, filling in backgrounds for book versions of the “Mutt and Jeff” comic strip. His first professional illustrations were for a physics textbook, “Atomics for the Millions,” published in 1947.

In 1948, at 20, he took a job building window displays for F. A. O. Schwarz. Through the store’s children’s book buyer, he was introduced to Ursula Nordstrom, the distinguished editor of children’s books at Harper & Row. The meeting, the start of a long, fruitful collaboration, led to Mr. Sendak’s first children’s book commission: illustrating “The Wonderful Farm,” by Marcel Aymé, published in 1951.

Under Ms. Nordstrom’s guidance, Mr. Sendak went on to illustrate books by other well-known children’s authors, including several by Ruth Krauss, notably “A Hole Is to Dig” (1952), and Else Holmelund Minarik’s “Little Bear” series. The first title he wrote and illustrated himself, “Kenny’s Window,” published in 1956, was a moody, dreamlike story about a lonely boy’s inner life.

Mr. Sendak’s books were often a window on his own experience. “Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life” was a valentine to Jennie, his beloved Sealyham terrier, who died shortly before the book was published.

Roundly praised, intermittently censored and occasionally eaten, Mr. Sendak’s books were essential ingredients of childhood for the generation born after 1960 or thereabouts, and in turn for their children. He was known in particular for more than a dozen picture books he wrote and illustrated himself, most famously “Where the Wild Things Are,” which was simultaneously genre-breaking and career-making when it was published by Harper & Row in 1963.

In 1964, the American Library Association awarded Mr. Sendak the Caldecott Medal, considered the Pulitzer Prize of children’s book illustration, for “Where the Wild Things Are", which has sold over 20 million copies.

Among the other titles he wrote and illustrated, all from Harper & Row, are “In the Night Kitchen” (1970) and “Outside Over There” (1981), which together with “Where the Wild Things Are” form a trilogy; “The Sign on Rosie’s Door” (1960); “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” (1967); and “The Nutshell Library” (1962), a boxed set of four tiny volumes comprising “Alligators All Around,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “One Was Johnny” and “Pierre.”

"In the Night Kitchen" — in which a naked child nearly gets turned into a cake — was famously controversial, and is still the 24th-most-challenged library book of the past decade, according to the American Library Association’s list of frequently challenged books.

Mr. Sendak’s work was the subject of critical studies and major exhibitions; in the second half of his career, he was also renowned as a designer of theatrical sets. His art graced the writing of other eminent authors for children and adults, including Hans Christian Andersen, Leo Tolstoy, Herman Melville, William Blake and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Mr. Sendak’s other awards include the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and, in 1996, the National Medal of the Arts, presented by President Bill Clinton. Twenty-two of his titles have been named New York Times best illustrated books of the year.

Many of Mr. Sendak’s books had second lives on stage and screen. Among the most notable adaptations are the operas “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” by the British composer Oliver Knussen, and Carole King’s “Really Rosie,” a musical version of “The Sign on Rosie’s Door,” which appeared on television as an animated special in 1975 and on the Off Broadway stage in 1980.

In 2009, a feature film version of "Where the Wild Things Are" — part live action, part animated — by the director Spike Jonze opened to favorable notices. (With Lance Bangs, Mr. Jonze also directed “Tell Them Anything You Want,” a documentary film about Mr. Sendak first broadcast on HBO that year.)

In September, a new picture book by Mr. Sendak, Bumble-ardy — the first in 30 years for which he produced both text and illustrations — spent five weeks on the New York Times children’s best-seller list. Sendak wrote the book while taking care of his longtime partner, Eugene Glynn, who died in 2007.

"When I did Bumble-ardy, I was so intensely aware of death," he told Gross in 2011. "Eugene, my friend and partner, was dying here in the house when I did Bumble-ardy. I did Bumble-ardy to save myself. I did not want to die with him. I wanted to live, as any human being does. But there's no question that the book was affected by what was going on here in the house. Bumble-ardy was a combination of the deepest pain and the wondrous feeling of coming into my own. And it took a long time. It took a very long time."

Maurice Sendak died on Tuesday in Danbury, Connecticut due to complications of a recent stroke, said Michael di Capua, his longtime editor. He was 83.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"The Scream" Sells For Record $119.9 Million

The Telegraph:
One of the world's most iconic masterpieces, The Scream by Edvard Munch, has sold for $119.9m (£73.9m), becoming the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

The work, created in 1895, went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in New York and was won by an anonymous telephone bidder.

The sale beat the previous world record for the most expensive artwork sold at auction which was held by Pablo Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust. That sold at Christie’s in New York for $106 million (£70 million) in May 2010.

The masterpiece was put on the market by Petter Olsen, a Norwegian businessman, whose family knew Munch and who have owned the portrait since the 1930s.

There are four versions of The Scream created by Munch, three of which are in museums. Two versions were stolen while on display but have since been recovered.

The version sold last night was the only one remaining in private hands and is considered perhaps the most sought-after of the four because it contains a poem about the work – written in the artist’s own hand – on the frame.

It reads: “I was walking along the road with two Friends / the Sun was setting – The Sky turned a bloody red / And I felt a whiff of Melancholy – I stood / Still, deathly tired – over the blue-black / Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire / My Friends walked on – I remained behind / – shivering with Anxiety – I felt the great Scream in Nature – EM.”

The Scream is one of the world’s most iconic artworks. It inspired tributes from other artists, including Andy Warhol. And it gave rise to Wes Craven's series of horror films in which the murderer wears a mask depicting the screaming face.

Born in 1863, and 36 when he painted the first version of The Scream, Munch is widely believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder. While it has been argued, with slight plausibility, that Munch was seeing red dust thrown up by the volcanic eruption at Krakatoa in Oslo, this is more or less irrelevant to our understanding of the painting. What he shows us is how something that might normally be considered beautiful and reassuring, a sunset, can become the agent of overwhelming dread.

The central figure with its hands raised to its startled light bulb of a face may have been inspired by a Peruvian mummy exhibited in the 1889 Paris Exhibition, as has been widely claimed, but it is anonymity of this figure – with no discernible sex, age or ethnicity – that gives the painting its universality. Rather than showing us an individual, Munch shows us what we feel like in moments of isolation and mental agony.

More information:
Business Insider: The Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold
The Telegraph: Retired Air Force Pilot Owns Michelango Painting Worth $300 Million

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tiana Baul "Junior" Seau (1969-2012)

"I worked with Junior here and later in Miami," Norv Turner said. "I can tell you no one had more character and true leadership ability than Junior. He brought passion to the game of football that was unmatched. His commitment to charitable causes in the community was inspiring. It was an honor to know him."

OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- Former NFL star Junior Seau was found dead at his home Wednesday, authorities said. He was 43.

Police Chief Frank McCoy said Seau's girlfriend reported finding him unconscious with a gunshot wound to the chest and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful. A gun was found near him, McCoy said, and the incident is being investigated as a suicide.

At Oceanside High School, he lettered in football, basketball, and track and field. He earned recognition as a league MVP and was named by Parade Magazine to its high school All-American Team.

"USC Linebacker U."
He had to sit out his freshman season at the University of Southern California because he got only a 690 on his SAT, 10 points short of the minimum 700 requirement for freshman eligibility. But he lettered in his final two seasons, 1988 and 1989. His '89 season was one of the best in USC's distinguished defensive history as he totaled 19 sacks and 27 tackles-for-loss en route to All-American honors. He was named the 1989 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.

At USC, Seau wore jersey number 55, a number also worn by other USC linebackers, including player and NFL coach Jack Del Rio, Chris Claiborne, Willie McGinest, Keith Rivers and most recently, USC linebacker Lamar Dawson. Like USC jersey number 58 (worn by Lofa Tatupu and Rey Maualuga), jersey number 55 is celebrated by the USC team and Trojan fans (and studied by NFL scouts) -- it means membership in the exclusive USC linebacker group widely known as "Club 55" and connotes "future NFL linebacker star."

"Tasmanian Devil"
Seau left USC after his junior season and was chosen in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft by Bobby Beathard's San Diego Chargers as the fifth overall draft selection. He led them to their only Super Bowl appearance with a career high 155 tackles in 1994. He was voted to a team-record 12 straight Pro Bowls and made the All-Pro list ten times.

Seau becomes the eighth member of those '94 Chargers, who lost Super Bowl XXIX to the 49ers, to die at a young age. The others: Chris Mims, David Griggs, Rodney Culver, Lewis Bush, Curtis Whitley, Shawn Lee and Doug Miller.

"Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now. We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family," the team said in a statement.

Seau remained with the Chargers until 2003 and was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a conditional draft choice. He fought through injuries for a few seasons and announced his retirement at an emotional press conference on August 14, 2006.

Never Retired
He came out of retirement a few times to play with the New England Patriots in search of a Super Bowl ring and was with the team when they lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII following the 2007 season, which ended New England's quest for a perfect season.

Seau announced his intention to retire for a second time on the television program Inside the NFL on January 13, 2010 and was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame on November 27, 2011.

He amassed 545 tackles, 56.5 sacks and 18 interceptions in his career.

"Twenty years, to be part of this kind of fraternity, to be able to go out and play the game that you love, and all the lessons and the friends and acquaintances which you meet along the way, you can't be in a better arena," Seau said last August after the Chargers announced he would be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.

Other Work
In 1991, Seau created the Junior Seau Foundation, an organization that has distributed more than $4 million over the last 10 years for drug awareness and educational opportunities for San Diego County youths.

Seau was a partner in Ruby Tuesday restaurants in both Temecula and San Bernardino in the late 2000s. When both of those restaurants closed in March 2010, he converted the Temecula location to "Seau's of Temecula," a smaller version of the very popular "Seau's" restaurant he had opened in 1996 in San Diego's Mission Valley, but it closed in November of that year.

In October 2010, Seau survived a 100-foot plunge down a seaside cliff in his SUV, hours after he was arrested for investigation of domestic violence at the Oceanside home he shared with his girlfriend. The woman had told authorities that Seau assaulted her during an argument.

There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol involved in the crash and Seau told authorities he fell asleep while driving. He sustained minor injuries.

More information:
» SI: Seau's Death Puts Football Under Question Again
» ESPN: Super Bowl Heartbreak and Lost Legacies