Archive for February, 2012

Music

I was going to write something about Valentine’s Day, but then I realized I don’t care about it at all. So instead, I’m going to talk about music for a bit.

Music is a big part of people’s lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re a casual fan, a fucking addict, or somebody who really isn’t into it at all. It’s everywhere. It’s on your television, in your car, and in nearly every building you’ll ever enter in your life. It’s even outside, blasting out of other people’s cars and stores. It’s all around us, and we can’t escape.

Not that most of us would, even if we could. We love music. I know I do. It’s a massive part of my life. It’s shaped certain aspects of me, connected me with people I probably wouldn’t have ever met otherwise, and is just generally fun.

I don’t want to focus on the negative aspects of music here, so I won’t. I’ll just say this: we all dislike certain genres of music/artists. And that’s fine. Nobody loves everything. I would just advise being open to new music, even if you have misgivings. You might be surprised.

Now, on with regularly scheduled programming.

For me, metal is the genre that drives my musical tastes. And yes, I’m being purposely vague there. Metal. Not any specific genre. There are just too many, and I don’t have the patience or the knowledge to name them all. So unless otherwise indicated, I will refer to it all simply as ‘metal’.

My favourite band, the band that has been my favourite for a lot of years now, is Pantera. I love Pantera. I love their music, I love their lyrics, I love their attitude, I love Phil’s voice. To me, they are the embodiment of metal music. If I could only listen to one band for the rest of my life, it would be Pantera. They were the first metal band I really got into, and I will listen to them until the day I die.

From Pantera, it was only logical I started to branch out a bit. Some of the big names immediately come to mind. Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax: bands who are similar in spirit to Pantera, if not in style. Slayer quickly became one of my favourites as well. Violent, chaotic, and not just the incoherent noise too many people seem to think they are.

It took me a little longer to get into Megadeth. At this exact moment, I would rank them third or fourth on my list of favourite bands, but at the beginning, I just couldn’t get into them. I’m not sure why. Maybe I listened to the wrong songs; maybe I didn’t listen to enough. Who can say? But now, I fucking love them. Dave Mustaine is one of the best guitar players in the world, and unlike some people, I think his voice is awesome. Perfect for what metal is.

In what may be a surprise to some people, I can honestly say I’m not a big Metallica fan. Ironic, I know. They are the biggest metal band of all time. There can be no argument. But I just don’t really like them all that much. I like some of their songs, to be sure; For Whom the Bell Tolls, Master of Puppets, Battery, Welcome Home (Sanitarium). I really enjoy those songs. But on the whole, I’ve never been able to get into them nearly as much as other bands.

I think, if I could really pin down my specific favourite type of music, thrash metal would be it. The attitude that comes with the whole genre appeals to me, on many different levels. But with the way bands sway from genre to genre with ease, the way elements from a multitude of genres bleed into each other, it’s difficult to keep it that simple.

From Pantera and Slayer, and even Metallica, I branched out further. Speed metal, death metal, groove metal, metalcore, even nu-metal; I listened (and still listen) to it all.

Motorhead, Death, Testament, Exodus, Exhorder, Kreator, Venom, All That Remains, Killswitch Engage, Slipknot, Black Label Society, Five Finger Death Punch, Machine Head, Hellyeah, Down, Superjoint Ritual, Avenged Sevenfold, Mudvayne, Stone Sour.

That’s a list of some of my favourite bands. They cover a lot of time, a lot of different periods. What metal is, the very definition of what it is has changed a Hell of a lot during the life of some of those bands. They are all very different; some will argue that some of them aren’t even metal. And that’s a fair judgment, in my mind. To some people, metal has a very specific definition, and some of the bands I listed just don’t fit.

To me, all of those bands have elements of metal, and that makes them metal. Stone Sour is more hard rock than metal, but they still have a certain attitude that I’ve always associated with metal. So that’s where I categorize them. Same with Avenged Sevenfold, Mudvayne, Slipknot, Killswitch, and All That Remains. It’s very easy to scoff at “nu-metal” or “metalcore”. But it’s still metal. Just a different kind.

There’s almost an expectation that comes with listening to a certain genre. If you listen to metal, you’re a metalhead. And if other metalheads find out you listen to a band they don’t consider metal, or is from a totally different genre, they’re more likely to look down on you than accept you. It’s horseshit, in my opinion. I don’t give a fuck what people listen to; if I like them, I like them. That’s it.

But that’s not enough for a lot of people. I have no problem with someone who has a well thought out reason for why they don’t believe a band fits in a certain genre, or why they don’t like a band. But it more often than not turns into “they suck, that’s why.” Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but I think that’s bullshit. If you can’t give me what I believe is a legit reason for why you don’t believe they are metal, then fuck you.

I don’t like Lamb of God. They are metal; there is no doubt there. But I don’t like them. Randy Blythe’s voice is not something I find pleasant. Their lyrics are not something I enjoy. And that is why I don’t like them. It doesn’t matter how much someone argues with me that they’re awesome; I will disagree.

I have a friend who is a metalhead and who does not like Pantera. And that’s fine. We get along well, because he doesn’t start every conversation with “Pantera sucks” or some variation of that. He is aware that I disagree with him, and yet we somehow manage to co-exist. We are, I think, in the minority. Music is a polarizing thing, and it’s easier to be around people who like the same shit as you. I think a lot of people would find it hard to like somebody who hates their favourite band, especially if they do like the same general type of music. Because that means they don’t just dislike the whole style; there’s something specific about the band you love that rubs them the wrong way. And yet we haven’t yet devolved to sending hate-filled emails to each other with hidden links to bands we know the other hates, just to be dicks to each other. Imagine that.

I’ve gotten away from what I was originally talking about. Sorry. I’m running out of inspiration here, so I think I’ll finish this up.

Like I said above, music is a part of all of us, whether we like it or not. It is involved with nearly every aspect of our lives. Couples have “their song”, there are lists all over the internet of the perfect music to listen to while doing this or that, people have certain major events in their life they immediately associate with a certain song. And that’s awesome.

I don’t have a point with this piece. Unlike my other pieces, which are long, rambling, and do have something of a message I’m trying to convey, this one is just about music. How much I love it, how much a fuckload of other people love it, and that’s about it.

So I’ll end on this. I love music. I love metal. I’m sure most of you love music too. And that’s it. This is a music appreciation post. As much as some aspects of music can pull us apart (different tastes, different levels of interest), the fact that there’s this thing that can bring us happiness, entertainment, and so much more is just something that should be fucking applauded.

Later.

The Seven Deadly Sins (Or so they say)

Before I get started, I need to give credit to Seven Deadly Sins: Settling the Argument Between Born Bad and Damaged Good, a non-fiction book written by Corey Taylor (lead singer of Stone Sour and Slipknot). That book is what inspired me to write this. A lot of the ideas I plan to mention in this are also in his book. They’ll have my spin on them, of course, but I’ve got to say that we agree on a lot, in regards to this particular subject. So, if you’ve read the book already, you probably won’t get much from this.

Also, if I offend anybody’s religious sensibilities, that is not my attention. I’m not planning to go on a rant about religion or anything, but it’s somewhat difficult to talk about this subject and not have some overlap.

The basic idea behind this piece is to give voice to my question of why the seven deadly sins are so “deadly”. I’m not an expert on religion, but I am aware the Catholic church divides the seven sins into two different categories, with some being judged worse than the others. I’m not going to get into that. For the purpose of this piece, all seven are being labelled as the single group they are known to the majority of the world as. The Seven Deadly Sins.

First and foremost, I want to state clearly that I do not believe in the seven deadly sins. Well, I believe they exist; I just don’t agree that they’re as bad as the rap they’re given. Much like Corey Taylor pointed out, I firmly believe all seven sins are a part of us. We all feel them, are probably feeling at least one of them at any given moment (except maybe when we’re sleeping). Some of us revel in them, some spend every waking moment trying not to give in to them. Either way, they’re always there.

One at a time, I’m going to go through each sin and tell you why I think it isn’t as terrible, as deadly as we’ve all heard. At the end, hopefully it will all make some kind of sense.

First up, let’s talk about Lust. That’s a popular one. We’ve all felt it. We’ve all lusted after somebody at one time or another. Some of us never stop. Obviously, some people have a better handle on it than others. Some people can’t keep their eyes or their dirty minds off any hottie that walks by. Others are a little less… consumed, we’ll say. But regardless, we all know and recognize it when we feel it.

Lust can make us do terrible things. Don’t get me wrong; all seven sins can drive us to do terrible shit, to friends, family, strangers. Pretty much anybody who gets in our way. I’m not arguing against that. Instead, I’m saying that bad shit is what people focus on. They ignore the fact that sins like lust can drive us to do great shit as well.

Ever done something you never thought you could, just to impress some girl/guy you were hot for at the time? Lust drove you to do it. Is that bad? I don’t think so. You accomplished something you might never have otherwise. Should you burn for it? Fuck no. Lust can facilitate change in us, for the better or worse; that’s really up to you. People have remade themselves for lust, to impress someone, and despite what inspirational movies would have us believe, changing yourself can be a good thing. I know it’s nice to think that people will always love us for who we are, but if we’re dirty, rude douchebags, we might be shit out of luck.

Lust drives us, all of us, to do great and terrible things. If you take that lust and force it on someone, through rape or any shit like that, then yeah, fuck you. Then you deserve to be eviscerated. If lust is all you think about, then it’s a problem. If it leads you to commit crimes against other people, it’s a problem. But if you control it, or rather, don’t let it take over your whole fucking life, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. Certainly not deadly.

Something that I feel is tied, to an extent, with lust is Vanity. Just like people have held themselves to a certain (hopefully high) standard in order to catch the eye of their object of desire, vanity forces us to give at least somewhat of a shit about how we appear. And I don’t mean just to the opposite sex.

Taken to the extreme, vanity can be a terrible (or rather, fucking annoying) thing. Some people are so vain, they think the world revolves around them. And it does not. But they act accordingly, and that can lead to some bad results, for them and others. I won’t go too far into it, but I’m sure you’ve all known at least one person who “suffered” from the vain affliction. And I put suffered in quotes, because to them, they aren’t suffering. It’s the rest of us who have a problem, not them.

Again, don’t get me wrong. While I would very much like to do away with all people who are alike to the description above, I don’t think vanity is necessarily such a bad thing. Like I said before, we all have, and in my opinion need, a certain amount of vanity. If we didn’t have any, we’d all be unwashed, un-groomed losers, sitting in our own filth and picking the bugs out of our long, greasy hair.

I’m vain. I know it. Not to any extreme extent, but it’s there. I won’t wear white shirts. I know they make me look fat. It’s something I just don’t do. I’m not overly concerned with my appearance, but there’s something in me that tells me to skip white shirts. Because even though I don’t care much, I do still care. It’s a fine distinction. And vanity is the reason why.

Vanity can, just like lust, drive us to do great things. If someone thinks they’re the center of the universe, and they see somebody out-performing them in some way, it could drive them to better themselves. And to me, regardless of the motivation behind it, bettering one’s self is usually a good thing.

I’ll be honest; of all the sins (except perhaps sloth), vanity is one I have trouble classifying as “deadly” at all. For the majority of the rest, I can see how they could be deadly, given the right circumstances. While I could think of examples for why vanity does fit in, at least superficially, it’s a relatively weak case. Just thought I’d say that.

And all that leads into Greed.

We are all greedy. Deep in our dirty little souls, we want it all. Everything. More, more, more. Even when we know we can’t have it.

And while some people will see that as a bad thing, and I agree it can be terrible, it’s also what makes it great. Not unlike the previous two sins, greed can drive us to great accomplishments. If someone is greedy for accolades, for public acknowledgement, and it drives them to cure a disease or invent some new computer than can wake your ass up out of a coma or some shit, is that wrong? Does the motivation matter more than the result?

To me, the answer is a resounding no. I don’t give a flying fuck how great things came to be; just that they did come to be. I don’t care if a person is after publicity, money, or the hugs of adoring children. It’s the end result that’s important.

The flipside of that is the bad, of course. The ugly, the mean, the petty. People want, and sometimes they take, and it’s to the detriment of others. And I’m in full agreement that in those cases, greed is something that should be punished, strictly and severely. But overlooking the good is a folly, in my opinion, a mistake that’s made daily, by many.

Envy. Another sin that can drive us to new heights. I wonder; are you sensing a pattern yet? You should be, so if you aren’t, maybe you should go back and reread.

Many would argue that envy and greed are very similar. Some might even say envy is greed, just for the shit somebody else already has. And I wouldn’t disagree. That’s actually one of the many reasons I discount the seven deadly sins as anything more than an antiquated tool for keeping the sheep in line. But I digress.

We all envy. We all look at our family, friends, neighbours—even strangers on the street—and feel envy. We want what they have, whether it be material goods, looks, friends, lovers. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we all feel it, and just like all the sins I’ve listed so far, it can lead us to both major accomplishments and unbelievably malicious stupidity.

I’m not going to rehash what I’ve already said three times. I don’t need to. You aren’t fucking idiots. And my ass is getting numb from sitting in this damn chair. So, let’s press on.

Next up on the list is Gluttony. I think this one confuses some people. It confuses me. It’s just too much like greed. But here’s how I break it down. You can be greedy without being a glutton, but if you’re a glutton, you are greedy. Follow that?

Basically, somebody can be greedy. They can want it all. But if they don’t take it, or keep taking it past the point where any sane person would, they aren’t a glutton. Once they do start taking, they become a victim of gluttony. It is greed take to the extreme, made physical, tangible. It’s the difference between the girl who goes to McDonald’s and eats a salad while secretly wanting three Big Macs and the girl who keeps eating Big Macs until her fucking stomach explodes. That’s my interpretation; take from it what you will.

Gluttony, to me, is a giant, gaping hole in you that you must fill. You’ve got to take and take and take, until you have it all. And it’s still not enough. It never is. You’re always hungry; you always want more. And not just food. Sex, pain, money, fucking tiny collectible trains. It could be anything. We’ve all heard the term ‘glutton for punishment’. People can be gluttons for anything.

And that’s what keeps gluttony from always being a bad thing. Some people are gluttons for publicity. Just like greed, people can do great things, just to get the kudos that come as a result. Because they need that recognition, need the acknowledgement, the fame, like a crack-head needs… well, crack. And again, to me, the motivation doesn’t mean shit.

I’m going to take a bit of a step to the side with the next sin: Sloth. Unlike the rest, I don’t see this one as some driving force. Maybe some of you do. Good for you. But my argument for this one is much more simple: what’s wrong with being lazy?

Again, before I get into it, I feel compelled to repeat myself. Taken to the extremes, it’s obvious what’s bad about sloth. If you lie around all day, doing nothing, until you die from either loneliness or because you run out of living relatives willing to feed and house you, then it’s an issue. But for most people, sloth means you take a day or two a week to sit on your ass, watch sports, and order a fucking pizza. And I say again, what’s wrong with that?

Nothing. That’s the answer. There is nothing wrong with doing fuck all, as long as you don’t do it all the time. And in today’s society, it’s hard to do nothing. People have to work, just to keep a shitty roof over their head and pizza pockets in their belly. So when they get the opportunity to take a fucking break, they should take it. And not feel a bit of shame over it. They deserve the relaxation.

If it wasn’t obvious, sloth is the “sin” that pisses me off the most. I just find it wrong, on nearly every level. So fuck it; we’re moving on…

…to Wrath. Which is, for the record, my personal favourite. We can all identify with this little bastard. We’ve all been pissed the fuck off before. Wanting to break shit, or people’s faces; whichever is closest. It has, in my opinion, the most potential of all seven sins to deliver pain, physical and emotional, to the people around us. We lash out when we’re in the grip of wrath, say and do terrible things to the people who love us. And that’s difficult to excuse.

Or it would be, if you were a brain-dead moron. To regularly functioning humans, however, it’s a different story. We’ve also seen the bad side of wrath, but we’ve also seen the heights it can drive us to reach. Anytime we’ve been beaten by somebody at something, anything, and thought “Yeah, fat fucking chance, buddy. I’m going to kick your ass,” and then gone on claim victory, it’s wrath proving just how useful it is.

It drives us, shapes us, is a major part of us. And like all the rest, the potential for pain and damage is there. But the potential for greatness, for accomplishment, for victory is there too, and just as powerful. Plus, it feels fucking good. To rant, to rave, to scream and lash out and just let the world know that we are angry and fuck composed silence ‘cause that shit is for pussies.

Overall, I think it breaks down fairly simply. Each of the sins, from the “deadliest” to the seemingly most benign, has two sides. A good and a bad, a dark and a light, so to speak. Yeah, they can drive people to ruin, but can just as easily bring about greatness. It just depends on how you use them.

And let’s be honest; I’ve been drawing on extreme examples of each to illustrate my views here. Chances are most of us only ever encounter these supposedly deadly sins in minor, insignificant situations. Where they lead to neither pain for others/self nor accomplishment. And that, I think, lends more credence to my point than anything I’ve said so far. The fact that some people believe these tiny little blips of nothing can lead to your soul burning in Hell for the rest of eternity goes to show just how much of a fucking joke the whole idea of “seven deadly sins” really is.

We’re all sinners. I know I am. I’m vain, full of lust and wrath. I envy people, I want shit, and God knows I’m a lazy fuck. But I control myself. I don’t let it get out of hand. I’m not out there, taking and raping and punching people who annoy the fuck out of me. It’s called restraint, and it’s what keeps, in my mind, the seven deadly sins from being deadly at all.

In the end, all seven of these sins could lead to terrible things. But like anything else, in moderation, they can lead to good things. When all is said and done, it’s your choice to do what you will. Lust can give you the drive to do good and bad things, but you still have to do them. Lust doesn’t rape anybody, doesn’t cure diseases or invent new shit. That, both the evil and the good, is on you. Wrath doesn’t make you beat your wife, key your neighbour’s car or raise more money for cancer research just so you can rub it in your coworker’s smug face. That’s all you, buddy.

And that’s it. In the end, I don’t think I accomplished what I set out to do. All I really did was give a reason for why each sin should at least be given a little consideration before being cursed to Hell. And that’s all I can ask for, I guess.

I’m not trying to sell people on seeing shit the same way I do. I just wanted to put my view out there and see if anybody a) thought it made any kind of sense and b) agreed with any of it. I hope I did that. If I didn’t… man, I must have just wasted a good portion of your time. But like I said, I’m vain. This was about me, not you. So suck it.

Later.

A Thought About Writing

A piece I wrote a few weeks ago, when I was bored.

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I was sitting here, in front of my computer, just listening to music earlier today. In my head, I was going over future scenes I wanted to get to in my story, South of Heaven. It’s weird, but after nearly two years working on it, I feel like I’m just finally starting to get to the good parts (aka the scenes that I orginally imagined, the ones that made me want to write the damn thing in the first place). 12 chapters in; I probably should have reached this stage sooner, but whatever. It’s my story and I’ll go as slow or fast as I fucking want.

Anyways, I was thinking about it, about what I wanted to do with it and where I want the plot/characters to go. I’ve got a lot of shit planned, and it’s all a big process at this point. Sorting out what goes where and what I have to do to get there.

As I was doing that, I started wondering what would happen if I got hit by a bus tomorrow. Some freak accident, and I was gone. My story would never get finished. And that pissed me off.

I could have probably just focused on thinking about my own death and how fucked up that is, wondering what would happen if I died. But instead, I was just angry. I very much dislike the idea of starting a story and never finishing it. I always have. I figure that’s probably why I haven’t taken down the fanfiction I started six years ago and haven’t worked on since. As long as they’re still up, I can tell myself I’ll get back to them someday.

And it’s not really an audience thing either. It’s about me. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate all the people who read South of Heaven. But in all honesty, I don’t do it for them. I do it for me. I have a story to tell, you know; I hope it entertains people, I really do. But in the end, if it doesn’t, tough shit. It entertains me.

So it all comes back to me. I wouldn’t want my story to just lie there, untouched. I would want somebody to pick up the ball and run with it, so to speak. Not because of the readers and how much (or little) they might want an ending. Not to give readers closure or bullshit like that. But because I don’t want it to not have an ending. Because I can’t stand the thought of leaving it unfinished. It pisses me off right now, thinking about it as I write this.

What’s the solution? I don’t know. I don’t plan to up and die anytime soon, so I think it’s pretty much a non-issue. But I thought about it anyway.

If I could choose, I would want someone I know to continue it. Someone familiar with my characters, my plots, my style (even if it irritates them from time to time). I don’t want to go into a whole thing about doing it justice; I think that would make me sound like a pretentious fucktard. Everybody’s writing style is different; I would expect differences, you know, but I’d want the… I don’t fucking know, the spirit or some shit like that, to be the same. I would want someone who is going to try their best to finish it, even if it takes forever. Cuz I can understand that, given my own updating style.

There really are only two options. Two fellow writers who know me and are familiar enough with my writing to do it. And I believe only one of them could pull it off.

I considered a few others, like Emily, Matt, and Toni, but there are very valid reasons why they just wouldn’t be right (note that I didn’t consider willingness to do it a factor in this haha).

Emily is familiar with my writing, but her own style is a little too experimental in comparison to my stuff. I like straightforward concepts and action in my stories, and as talented as she is, I just don’t think she could keep it close enough. I know I said difference would be all right, but I just envision it being entirely different. A whole new story. And that’s not what I would want.

Toni knows South of Heaven as well, and her style is closer to mine than Emily’s is, but I’ve talked less about it with her than I have with others. There are things I have planned, certain plot points and scenes I’ve envisioned and would wish to have included, and I just don’t think she’d see them the same way I do. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I just think the feeling behind the scene, what the author thinks about certain things, shape how the words turn out and the outcome with her behind the wheel would be quite different from how it is with me.

Matt got consideration simply because we share a certain fondness for swearing and violence, both of which are very big parts of the story. I think he could do quite well with South of Heaven, but he’s just too unfamiliar with it.

So in the end, it came down to Rachael and Sarah. And it would have to be Sarah.

She’s more familiar with the story and me than anybody save for Rachael. She knows the characters, has actually written for Kane before, and loves the gore and violence just as much as I do. I trust her to not turn it into something it isn’t. Pretty simple.

As for Rachael, anybody who knows her and has read pretty much anything I’ve ever written knows why that just wouldn’t work. I think she’d give it a really good shot, but I just swear and kill at a rate she isn’t comfortable with.

So, yeah, that’s my long post about what I would want to happen with South of Heaven were I to die in a freak accident. Somewhat morbid, I think, but why not just say it? Like I said, I don’t plan to die for a very, very long time, so don’t take this too seriously. Just something that came to mind and gave me food for thought for about an hour or so.

Later.

Jim Thome In the Hall of Fame?

A piece I wrote when this topic came up last August.

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I know this is a little late, but I wanted to give my thoughts on Jim Thome hitting his 600th career home run and the argument about whether or not he is Hall of Fame worthy. For me, the answer is a no-brainer: of course he is.

600 home runs. That’s an exlusive club, and that number alone should guarantee Thome’s inclusion into the Hall, upon his retirement. Just think about that for a minute. Throw aside every other stat and just realize that out of the thousands of men who have played in the MLB over the years, only eight have hit at least 600 home runs. Eight. Three of those eight are already in the Hall of Fame, and are considered three of the best, if not the three best baseball players of all time. Two of the eight would be first-ballot Hall of Famers if it weren’t for all the steriod shit. Another is going to be a first-ballot inductee. And A-Rod is still playing. So, just based on the company he is in, Jim Thome deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I mean, who’s going to hit 600 next? Albert Pujols, probably. And when he gets there, that’ll be another first-ballot Hall of Famer in the mix.

Let’s look at some of Thome’s other numbers. He ranked 8th all-time in walks, and six of the seven guys ahead of him are all in the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds is the only exception, and I think we can all agree he’d be in Hall if it weren’t for the steroids. 1713 walks overall. That’s insane, and is really telling about just how good of a hitter Thome has been over his career. Add that to the AB/HR ratio, where he ranks 5th lowest, and you get one of the most dangerous power hitters of the last two decades.

There are several arguments for why Thome shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. One is his extremely high number of strikeouts, which ranks him second all-time in that category. But I don’t buy that. Even with the huge amount of strikeouts, he still has a career average of .277, which isn’t mind-blowing, but is solid. Not to mention he’s tied for first all-time with 12 walk-off home runs. That’s the definition of clutch. The biggest indicator for me of why strikeouts are, or should be, a wash when it comes to Hall of Fame consideration, is Reggie Jackson. He’s the all-time leader in strikeouts, and he’s in the Hall. That’s proof, I believe, that strikeouts can be discounted, if the player in question ranks high enough in other categories.

Then there are the people who bring up the fact that Thome has never really been counted among the best players of his era. It’s true, to an extent. When people mention the best players of the last two decades, you hear names like Bonds, Rodriguez, Griffey, and the like. Thome is rarely mentioned among them. But to counter that, I’d like to point out that he’s had nine seasons where he hit 100+ RBI. He hit 90+ RBI in another two seasons. He’s hit 30+ home runs 12 times. But because he played in an era with so many great players, like Bonds, Griffey, and Rodriguez, his very solid numbers were always overshadowed. Doesn’t mean he was a bad player, or even an average player. He was just not as good as those guys.

And then there’s the fact that he’s basically been nothing but a DH for the last 6 years or so. Which again, I don’t buy. His hitting stats more than make up for the fact that he has essentially no fielding stats since 2005. I’d like to point out that back in the day, when he actually did play first base, he had a fielding percentage of .994, which isn’t too shabby. He never made more than 10 errors in a single season while playing first. But in the end, I don’t think his defensive stats should matter. Thome was and is a power hitter, first and foremost. The fact is, he wasn’t a defensive liability when he played in the field, and when it got to the point where he might start becoming one, due to injury and age, he became a DH. It shouldn’t factor into the decision much, in my opinion.

And there we have it. I don’t think I stated my case, or Thome’s I should say, all that well, but there it is. He is one of the best power hitters of his generation, who was often overshadowed by his great peers. But his hitting stats, his 600+ home runs, decent average, and high number of walks, make him a future Hall of Famer in my eyes.

Later.

Vernon Wells

A piece I wrote when Vernon Wells made his first trip back to Toronto with the Angels.
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Last night was Vernon Wells’ return to Toronto, after being traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the last off-season. I didn’t watch the game, but I heard all about it afterward. Vernon got a standing ovation, and then homered off the first pitched he saw.

Good for him. Despite his short-comings on the field, Wells was always a hard-working and charitable guy within the city. He was good to the fans, gave a lot of money to charity, and was just generally a nice guy. He deserves to be treated well by the Toronto fans, and I thought the standing ovation was a pretty classy move.

But, while I was on Twitter last night, I decided to scroll down through all the tweets mentioning Wells (he was trending). After a certain point (see: any tweet mentioning him before yesterday), they were all about how terrible he’s playing this season. The dichotomy was pretty amusing. At the top, they were all similar to ‘Classy guy, good player, I wish him well’, and lower down ‘Wells fucking sucks, he couldn’t hit a beach ball, trade him for some baseballs and a hat’.

And it’s kind of sad, because he really does suck. I mean, he puts up decent numbers, HR and RBI-wise, but he’s only hitting .208 on the season. He’s on pace to finish the season somewhere around 25/65, and for a guy who makes the amount he does, that’s just not acceptable. Last season, he did good. Hit .273, with 31 HR and 88 RBI. That’s what allowed the Jays to unload his ridiculous contract on the Angels. If they’d thought he’d be hitting .208 at this point in the season, there’s no way that trade gets made.

So, I don’t really have a point in this piece. I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s interesting how things change between players and fans, once the player is traded. When he played in Toronto, Vernon Wells was vilified often by the fans, due to the lack of production in relation to the amount of money he made. Now that he’s an Angel, all their fans hate him, and he gets a standing ovation in Toronto. It’s a very strange thing.

Later.

The Blue Jays Stealing Signs

A piece I wrote when this “story” first broke last summer.

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When I saw the article about this on TSN.ca today, I laughed. You know, the Jays probably are stealing signs. Every team steals signs. It’s a part of baseball. Any advantage you can give yourself you do. Anybody who doesn’t believe that is a fucking moron.

And it really doesn’t matter, in the end. The Jays are 28-27 at home this season. One game over .500. You know what that means? It mean they suck at stealing signs. If they were any good at it, they’d hit the ball more and win more fucking games. They have three guys hitting over 300 at the moment; one of those has only played four games, and the other’s average is dropping like a rock.

The best part of this story is that the Yankees and the Red Sox are two of the teams who were specifically named as teams that were “concerned” about this shit. Are you fucking kidding me? We’re 14 and 11.5 games back from the division lead and in the wild card race, respectively. We haven’t even played in a post-season game since ‘93. Calm the fuck down. We’re not catching you, even if you give us a list of every pitch you’re going to make before you make it.

It just all seems so stupid to me.

And I could sit here and badmouth the Yanks and the Sox, bring up the players they have, and have had over the years, who’ve been accused to doing steriods. That’s cheating, last time I checked. But I’m not going to do that, because I don’t care. It’s all about winning. You do what you’ve got to do.

As a fan, I don’t care if the Jays cheat. In fact, I want them to cheat. We haven’t made the payoffs since 1993. Fucking 1993. That’s fucking crazy. I turned three two days before the last playoff game they played. Three. I’m almost 21 now. So I say cheat. Do whatever the fuck you have to do to win. Steal signs, do steroids, beat up opposing players before the game. Smoke crack and dance around the dugout in your boxers. I don’t give a fuck. Do whatever you need to do. Just win.

That’s all I got.

Later.

2011 NHL Awards

A piece I originally wrote for the 2011 NHL Awards. The majority of my picks were wrong, for the record.
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Since the NHL Awards are being handed out tonight, I thought I’d give my picks today.

I tried to give as much reasoning as I could as to why each player who was nominated for an award deserved to win it, as well as some reasons why some of them probably won’t win. This is all opinion of course, so I expect a lot of people to disagree with many of my arguments. Just thought I’d put my thoughts out there, see what other people think.

*****

Calder Memorial Trophy – Logan Couture, Jeff Skinner, Michael Grabner

I’ll have no complaints, no matter who wins this one. All three players had great rookie campaigns, and all three have done enough to merit winning this award.

There’s not really much I can say about Logan Couture. This guy is a very good player. 32 goals in your rookie campaign is pretty damn good. 10 goals on the power play isn’t too shabby either. I think the fact he plays on a team with stars like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley probably hurts his chances to win, but he’s still definitely got a legit shot at taking home the Calder.

I give a lot of credit to Michael Grabner. Of the three nominees, he played on the worst team, the New York Islanders, and was not surrounded by near the same talent level as the other two. It’s sort of a double-edged sword though; on a better team, he would have had better players around him, which may have boosted his goal (34) and assist (18) totals significantly. However, he may have played a lesser role on a better team, which would have probably had a negative impact on his numbers. Remember, he could barely crack the roster in Vancouver, and didn’t exactly light it up during his time in the AHL.

With all that being said, I’ll be very surprised if Jeff Skinner doesn’t win it. His point total (63) was the higher than the point totals of the others (LC – 56, MG – 52), he’s the youngest of the three (19 years old), and he had no prior pro-league experience (AHL or NHL). For someone to come right out of Junior hockey and have such an impact on an NHL team is pretty impressive. Making the All-Star team as an 18 year old didn’t hurt his odds here either. Having the highest point total for a rookie since Patrick Kane (72) in 07-08 is definitely something that deserves mention as well.

My Pick: Jeff Skinner

*****

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy – Loui Eriksson, Nicklas Lidstrom, Martin St. Louis

This award is a hard one for me to pick a winner for, since I think it is completely pointless. I really couldn’t care less about sportsmanship or gentlemanly conduct. Unfortunately, the award isn’t going away, and once again, I think all three nominees have a legitimate shot at taking it home.

Nicklas Lidstrom has been, and always will be, a real gentleman out on the ice. He seems to always keep his cool, and his hockey IQ is off the charts, so he’s not likely to make bad decisions that result in unnecessary penalties. Ironically enough, his PIM total (20) is the highest of the three nominees (LE – 8, MS – 12). That’s going to work against him. Not to mention the fact that this award almost never goes to defencemen. He’s in tough for this one.

When it comes down to the other two nominees, I don’t really have much to say. Loui Eriksson has the lower PIM total, so an argument could definitely be made for why he deserves to win. With that being said, Martin St. Louis had a much higher point total, while only taking two more minor penalties than Eriksson. Not to mention the fact that he played in all 82 games this season, three more than Eriksson did. Also, given the trend of recent years, namely Pavel Datsyuk taking this award home from 2006 to 2009, a repeat winner seems likely to me. St. Louis won it last year, and I think the trend will continue.

My Pick: Martin St. Louis

*****

Frank J. Selke Trophy – Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, Jonathan Toews

This is another award where the trend seems to be repeat winners. That trend probably breaks this year. I think this is a two-horse race.

Pavel Datsyuk, who has won this award for the last three seasons, is in tough to make it four in a row, in my opinion. Being injured, and missing a significant portion of the season really put a damper on his chances. He still put up great numbers, and is arguably the most difficult player to play against, due to his extreme skill level, but I just don’t know if that will be enough this year. I’d be surprised if he managed to win; surprised, but pleased. This guy is one of the most entertaining players I’ve ever seen, and he doesn’t sacrifice any defensive ability while still managing to pull off some of the craziest skill moves.

Of the two other nominees, a strong case could be made for either. Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kesler had similar point totals (76 and 73, respectively) and a nearly identical +/- stat (25 and 24, respectively). Toews ability to play hard against any opposition, and not take a crazy amount of penalties is certainly something to be considered, but I don’t think that will be enough to earn him more votes than Kesler.

There are two factors that play into why I think Kesler will be winning the Selke: hits, and the high level of publicity given to the Vancouver Canucks franchise this season. Kesler’s hit total (124) was far higher than Toews’ (74). I’ve always looked at the term “defensive aspects of the game” and thought that being hard to play against as one of the most important parts of it. Kesler really knows how to throw his body around out there, and he does it often, and if that doesn’t make him hard to play against, I don’t know what does. The second factor that plays in his favour is the level of awareness, both media and fan, given to the Canucks this year. Between having last year’s Hart and Art Ross winner, Henrik Sedin, and being far and away the best team In the NHL this year, a lot more people have been paying attention to the Canucks. A lot of people watched Kesler this year, and saw him put up very good numbers, while not slipping at all in his defensive categories.

My Pick: Ryan Kesler

*****

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy – Ray Emery, Daymond Langkow, Ian Laperriere

This one is a hard one to judge. All three have a good chance of taking it, just based on their accomplishments after suffering terrible injuries.

Daymond Langkow managing to come back and actually play in a couple games this season, after damaging his spinal cord is a pretty amazing story. Considering his age, the amount of time he missed (an entire year), and the fact that his offensive numbers have been steadily declining for the last few years, it shows a lot of dedication to the game that he even bother with a comeback. He could have easily walked away from the game, especially after suffering a setback in his rehab back near the beginning of the season.

Dedication to the game is something that Ian Laperriere has in spades. While coming back to play in the playoffs during the 09-10 season, after being hit in the face by a puck was undoubtedly a bad decision, it still shows how badly this guy wanted his team to win. Sticking around, continuing to try and help the team as much as possible, while being forced to sit out with post-concussion syndrome just further shows how much Laperriere wants to be a part of the game. I think the fact that he wasn’t able to attempt any kind of comeback this season, however, puts a bit of a dent in his chances to win the Masterton Trophy.

And what can I say about Ray Emery? The guy suffered from a disease that almost no other athlete has ever come back from. He’s missing 13 centimeters of bone in his leg. As a goaltender, the legs and hips are hugely important, especially to someone who employs the butterfly style of play. The fact that he was able to get back out on the ice is amazing to me. What sets him apart from the other two nominees in my eyes, however, is the fact that not only did he come back, he came back and played extremely well. 7 wins in 10 games for the Anaheim Ducks, while posting a .926 save percentage. Not too shabby.

My Pick: Ray Emery

*****

Jack Adams Award – Dan Bylsma, Barry Trotz, Alain Vigneault

Again, three very deserving nominees. It’s fairly easy to make a convincing case for all three.

Dan Bylsma had to go a large part of the season missing his two biggest stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Not to mention only having Jordan Staal for 42 games as well. Yet even with those huge holes in the roster, Bylsma managed to coach the Penguins to a 49 win, 106 point season. Impressive. When you look at the point totals for the players, it looks even better. Excluding Crosby, who missed the last 41 games of the regular season, the highest scoring forward on the team was Chris Kunitz with 48 points. Bylsma was able to plug minor-league guys into his line-up, and get enough production out of them to keep the team winning. No easy feat.

While Bylsma had to adapt to life without his star players, Barry Trotz is forced, year after year, to try and win without high-scoring forwards. For the sixth time in the last seven NHL seasons, Trotz managed to guide the Predators to the playoffs, despite not having a player score more than fifty points. Having Shea Weber, arguably the game’s best defenceman, and quality goaltending from Pekka Rinne certainly helped tremendously, but Trotz still had to find away to squeeze some offensive numbers out of a roster that didn’t really have a lot to give. The loss of Dan Hamhuis to free agency last summer was a big blow, but Trotz was still able to step up and coach his team to a 44 win, 99 point season. Definitely deserving of some recognition.

And now we come to Alain Vigneault. My hatred for the Vancouver Canucks is telling me not to say it, but I think Vigneault is the runaway winner of this award. Coaching a team to a 54 win, 117 point seasons is no easy feat, even when that team is as talented to the Canucks. Vigneault had to continually find a way to plug holes in the line-up, left by injuries to important players like Hamhuis, Bieksa, and Malhotra. He had to try and balance Roberto Luongo’s schedule, so the goaltender wasn’t completely wiped by the time the playoffs rolled around. And again, the same publicity factor that I believe is going to give Kesler the edge over Toews for the Selke Trophy comes into play. Everybody was watching as Vigneault coached the Canucks to far and away the best record in the NHL this season.

My Pick: Alain Vigneault

*****

James Norris Memorial Trophy – Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom

To me, this is probably the hardest award to judge. There are so many factors that go into deciding what makes one defenceman better than another. I have a feeling that my pick will not turn out to be the actual winner with this one.

62 points is an incredible total, especially for a defenceman who’s now north of 40 years of age. Nicklas Lidstrom continues to be the most consistent defenceman of the last twenty years. Part of me wants to say he’ll win the Norris, just because he’s won it so many times before. He’s the most dominant d-man I’ve ever seen play, and he does it without being physically intimidating like Rob Blake or Ray Bourque. He’s probably the smartest player I’ve ever seen play the game. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll be the one to take it home this season. Yeah, he had the highest point total of the three nominees (ZC – 44, SW – 48), but he also had a negative +/- stat for the first time in his career. And I know that’s not always telling. A lot of people disregard that stat, say it’s unreliable at best. But this isn’t a player who has hovered around even every season in his career. He routinely hits +40. He hasn’t had a single digit positive season since he was +9 in 00-01. He’s +429 in his career. To have a negative season, even though it was only -2, is a massive drop-off. He was not the best defenceman in the league this year.

When it comes to the other two nominees, I feel like Zdeno Chara is somewhat of a trendy pick. Don’t get me wrong; the guy is an absolute defensive monster out there. He plays insane minutes every game, faces all the top offensive stars, and still manages to put up decent numbers. His +/- stat was the highest of the three nominees (+33), and his point total was close enough to Weber’s as to not really be a factor. Unfortunately, I think sometimes his physical attributes sort of blind people to certain parts of his games. While his long reach helps bail him out, skilled players with above average speed can get around him fairly easily. And if someone manages to get behind past him, he lacks the foot speed to catch all but the slowest forwards in the league. In my opinion, while he is a top-notch defenceman, his game has holes in it that should prevent him from winning the Norris Trophy.

Shea Weber was the best defenceman in the NHL this season. Of all d-men, not just the other nominees, he is the most well-rounded, balancing good offensive numbers and stellar defensive ones. He’s the complete package, when it comes to d-men: hard shot, good vision, great size/strength, doesn’t take a lot of stupid penalties, and with enough speed to keep most players in check. And he hits like a Mack truck. In my eyes, there is no current player even close the Weber. Drew Doughty is someone who could compete with him, in a couple of years. But for the moment, Shea Weber takes the title.

My Pick: Shea Weber

*****

Vezina Trophy – Roberto Luongo, Pekka Rinne, Tim Thomas

While a strong case could be made for any of the three nominees, I think it’s fairly safe to assume which one will be winning the award, based solely on his outstanding statistics.

Pekka Rinne just had a very solid year. That’s the best way of putting it. 33 wins, exceptional goals against average and save percentage. If he was to win, there are very few arguments as to why he wouldn’t deserve it. I think it’s safe to say he’s probably be the favourite in almost any other year. Unfortunately for him, he just happened to get nominated the same year as Tim Thomas.

The same goes for Roberto Luongo. A slightly lower save percentage, and slight higher goals against average than Rinne, along with the highest win total of the three nominees (38) give him a decent shot at winning. Again, in any other year, his statistics would probably put him as the odds-on favourite. But Tim Thomas has him beat here, I believe.

And finally we come to the man himself. Tim Thomas had an incredible year, statistically. 35 wins, a goals against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .938 just put him above the other nominees. That .938 save percentage is the highest ever since they started recording that stat. That alone is probably enough to get him the Vezina. Add to that how he managed to have such an amazing year, after almost losing his starting position to Tuukka Rask last year and it just makes the story that much better. In my mind, there’s no way he’s not taking this award home tonight. I bet It’ll look great sitting beside the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup.

My Pick: Tim Thomas

*****

Hart Memorial Trophy – Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin, Martin St. Louis

This is another case of all three having legitimate reasons why they should win, but with one nominee standing above the others.

Corey Perry led the league in goals this year, and was the only player to hit fifty goals. He almost hit the 100 point plateau (98), and really played well when Ryan Getzlaf took a puck to the face and missed some games. Unfortunately, playing in Anaheim doesn’t really do him any favours, when it comes to getting his name out there. I don’t think enough people really watched him play, so I doubt he wins the award.

It’s much the same with Martin St. Louis. He is far too under-exposed in Tampa Bay, especially considering how he continues to put up high point totals, despite his increasing age. He may just be a little guy, but St. Louis is one of the most consistent players around. Of course, playing with Steven Stamkos, and Vincent Lecavalier back when Lecavalier didn’t suck, definitely helps keep the point totals high. But there aren’t many players who compete like St. Louis does, and I bet he’d be a point/game player even on a team with no other stars. Unfortunately, the lack of exposure undoubtedly hurt his chances to win the Hart this year.

And that leaves Daniel Sedin. There are many reasons why I believe he’ll be taking home the Hart Trophy this year, not the least of which is his very high skill level. It’s no secret that I hate the Vancouver Canucks, but there’s no denying just how skilled the Sedins are. You don’t score 100+ points in the NHL by being a slug out there. Does that mean I like the Sedins as players? No. I think they’re both pussies, and softer than pillows (Repeated punches to the face, anybody?). But they are unbelievable skilled. That’s only part of why Daniel will win tonight though. Again, the high exposure the Canucks experienced this year will help him along. Also, I believe he may have gotten some votes simply because his brother won the Hart last year. The idea that twins could win the award, in consecutive years, is an interesting one, and I’d bet it was enough to convince at least a few people to pick him as the winner. It sounds incredibly stupid, but there you go.

My Pick: Daniel Sedin

*****

Ted Lindsay Award – Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin, Steven Stamkos

Since it’s the players voting for this award, I’d like to think the outcome will be a little different than with the Hart Trophy. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t shock me if my pick is wrong.

With Corey Perry, a lot of the same arguments for why he should win the Hart Trophy apply with the Ted Lindsey Award as well. Being the only fifty goal scorer, keeping the Ducks in the midst of things while Getzlaf was out, and just generally being a gritty, tough player probably got him a lot of votes from his fellow players. I don’t think it’ll be enough to win though.

In a perfect world, Daniel Sedin would not win this award. Henrik Sedin won the Hart last year, but lost out on the Ted Lindsay Award to Alex Ovechkin. I’m hoping history repeats itself. It’s pretty apparent that a lot of players around the league dislike the Vancouver Canucks, and that could mean they didn’t vote Sedin the winner. I think the fact that Daniel rarely stands up for himself probably loses him some points in the eyes of his fellow players. Also, NHL players are only human, and not voting for someone because you resent the fact that they’re more skilled than you is something I can see happening quite often. Do I think Daniel Sedin wins this award? Yeah, probably. But he’s not my pick.

I’d like to think Steven Stamkos’ inclusion in this category over that of his teammate, Martin St. Louis, is a sign. Players who have to play against Stamkos on a regular basis see just how good of a player he is. The guy’s barely out of his teens and he’s already one of the best pure goal scorers in the league. It’s impressive as hell, and the other players undoubtedly see that. I think the fact that he seems like a fairly humble person works in his favour as well. I already mentioned the apparent dislike many players seem to have for the Canucks, which dents Daniel Sedin’s chances in my eyes. Add to that the fact that Corey Perry seems like the kind of guy who could irritate the hell out of opposing players, and kind of be a dick on the ice, and I’m thinking the nice guy factor may have got Stamkos some votes. We’ll see though.

My Pick: Steven Stamkos

*****

As to the other trophies, they just don’t seem as important as the ones listed above. So I’m not going to go into detail with those.

*****

Bridgestone Messier Leadership Award – Zdeno Chara, Shane Doan, Nicklas Lidstrom

My Pick: Nicklas Lidstrom

*****

NHL Foundation Award – Dustin Brown, Mike Green, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin

My Pick: Daniel and Henrik Sedin

*****

So there we go. Those are my picks for the winners of this year’s NHL Awards. I’ve probably guessed wrong on most of them. Have to watch the show tonight to see.