Archive for September, 2011
Noah Berlatsky is none too impressed with “Pearl Jam 20“:
Rock these days is mostly relevant as self-parody. Or at least, it’s hard to escape that conclusion after watching Cameron Crowe’s “Pearl Jam 20.” The film is much like the music of the band it documents – lumbering, shapeless and irritatingly reminiscent of many other things you didn’t like all that much.
And it gets better.
I haven’t seen the doc, though I might if it ever ends up on Netflix. I was a fan of Pearl Jam: Ten was one of the first CDs I ever owned (along with Use Your Illusion I & II), and I wore the ever living shit out of that disc. Their video for “Evenflow” blew me away while on constant rotation in MTV’s BuzzBin, while “Jeremy” totally freaked me out for a while until it became tired and overplayed. I even wrote a short story for Grade 12 English inspired by “Daughter”, which in retrospect ended up being a creepy yet cliched tale of incest and abuse which netted me a banal ‘B’. Alas.
Then band started getting all “political” and shit, which turned me off. Not so much because I disagreed with them, though I usually did, but more because they were so fracking unoriginal. (I did appreciate their selling their concert tapes in stores, though. I enjoy bootlegs as much as the next fan, but these live recordings were at such a higher quality than most bootlegs I had been able to track down. So good on them for that.)
But I still soured on them, slowly but continuously, until I got to the point that I didn’t even care about them. I first recognized this when I caught their show in Calgary a few years back. My buddies were pumped, pumped, pumped about it, and I figured, yeah, this should be good. But the concert bored the hell out of me. They sounded great and they had energy, but I realized that their songs were utterly humourless and depressing. Not Elliott-Smith-so-depressing-it’s-beautiful depressing. Just bleh depressing, and without a trace of self-deprecation.
Berlatsky touches on it in his review:
There’s nothing to do but cover your eyes in horror as frontman Eddie Vedder explains, without a hint of irony, that he writes dark songs because “my emotions are like a quarter flipped in the air.” Nor is there any escape from the horror as you watch the band members steer helpless anecdote after helpless anecdote into dank, blind alleys, there to be gruesomely and pointlessly bludgeoned to death.
I haven’t even seen the documentary and I could’ve predicted this outcome.
They’re a great band, and they’ve come up with some terrific riffs and quality recordings. However, because of their over-earnest preening and postering, they somehow lost me in the past 20 years.
In the Rolling Stone following Kurt Cobain’s suicide, a letter writer made a comment along the lines of “The wrong guy killed himself, eh Eddie?” I was a big PJ fan at the time, but that heartless comment spoke the cynical truth. Cobain was a fucked up junkie whose penchant for heroin was overshadowed by his taste in women, but no one could deny he had a wry sense of humour. His lyrics touched on the poignant, ironic humanism, and illustrated it on a template of grunge punk laced with pop sensibility (the latter thanks to drummer Dave Grohl).
Vedder, on the other hand, epitomized 1990s progressive thought. At times, it almost seemed his band consulted with Hillary’s focus groups on their cause du jour. They might be political, but they’re not risky, and hardly original. Worst of all, they lacked Cobain’s humanity, which is why the latter’s image will long outlast the former’s smug self-righteousness.
But again I’ll watch PJ 20 if I come across it. There’s nothing wrong with reflecting on past memories, even if they turn out misguided in retrospect.
“64 percent of all the world’s statistics are made up right there on the spot
82.4 percent of people believe ’em whether they’re accurate statistics or not”
— Todd Snider, Statistician’s Blues
Munir Sheikh, the former head of Statistics Canada who resigned last during l’Affair Long-form Census, has released his cri du coeur in defending his professional integrity, the necessity of quality statistical data, and willingness to accuse politicians of acting politically or something (h/t Aaron Wherry). While his undated paper, subtly entitled “Good Data and Intelligent Government”, is a reasonable though flawed argument which came too late to affect the government’s plans for the long-form census, it happily provides an deep insight into the mindset of the technocratic career public servant.
Shocking news this morning: the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team, including coaching staff, were killed this morning in a plane crash in central Russia. Among those who perished was Brad McCrimmon, the team’s head coach.
McCrimmon was one of my favorite players growing up. Hailing from Dodsland, SK, less than an hour from where I came from, he was a rough-and-tough defenseman who went from being a local star to stand-out junior player with the Brandon Wheat Kings to one of the most dependable defensive defensemen the NHL ever had.
McCrimmon was drafted by Boston in the first round of the NHL draft in the legendary class of 1979. Some might consider a 15th overall pick to be a bit high for a defensive defenseman, but Allan Maki gives us a hint of why the Bruins took a chance on him:
Stories of his hockey exploits would become legendary, like the 1979 Memorial Cup game he played with the Brandon Wheat Kings. On that night, against the Peterborough Petes, he logged 60 minutes 38 seconds of ice time. The only two minutes he missed were spent in the penalty box.
“I used to play a lot of minutes anyway,” McCrimmon said at the 2010 Memorial Cup in Brandon, where his brother Kelly is the Wheat Kings’ general manager/head coach. “It wasn’t a plan [to play an entire game and overtime]. It just happened.”
Think about that for a second. I too once played an entire game save for two minutes in the box. I was eight years old and we only had six skaters on the team. McCrimmon did it in the top junior tournament in the world. Jesus.
While he was known for his offensive flair in junior, he quickly realized his calling as a solid, stay-at-home defensemen with the Bruins. Three seasons later, he was with the Philadelphia Flyers and, along with Mark Howe, became part of the most effective defensive partnerships the game has ever known.
How effective was he? In 1985-86, McCrimmon scored an incredible +83 for the season, bested only by Howe’s +85. Two years later, McCrimmon led the league in plus/minus (+48) while with the Flames. In 18 seasons, he was a minus player only twice: a -3 as a rookie with Boston and a -7 with the lowly 1993-94 Hartford Whalers. That’s called consistency, people.
Perhaps his most notable legacy as a player came during his time with the Detroit Red Wings. It was there where McCrimmon mentored a young defensive prospect named Nicklas Lidstrom. While the talented Swede had all the tools available to become one of the greatest defensemen in the game, it was his time with McCrimmon during those impressionable early years which arguably taught the kid how to play proper defense. Who knows how many other talented young players could have benefited from McCrimmon’s tutelage?
I was fortunate enough to have met him once. I was 13 years old in the summer of 1989, and he was showing off the Stanley Cup he had just won with Calgary that spring. Dad took me, my brother, and a couple of young kids from town (one of whom would end up winning the Memorial Cup a number of years later) to Plenty to see the Cup and meet the man himself. I remember shaking his huge hands and noticed that his legs were as big as the cup itself. He said a few nice words to us and posed for a picture, which was mailed out to us a few weeks later. We then got to touch the silver mug and study the names of hockey’s glorious past. I must have kissed it, but I didn’t dare try to lift it up. It was the highlight of my youth, a day I’ve never forgotten.
I know people from west-central Saskatchewan are all feeling this today. Hockey was part of all of us. We never had any stars come from out our way, but the guys we did have — McCrimmon, Laurie Boschman, Bobby Bourne, Dave Lewis — were tough character players. They earned our respect, and we were proud to call them our own. And McCrimmon was the best of them.
Rest in peace, Beast.