Monday, May 28, 2007

Sunset


May 26 | 8:10 pm | Bristol, RI

Monday, May 21, 2007

Outplayed

This year's NHL Western Conference final has to be one of the strangest playoff series I've ever seen. The Red Wings are on the brink of elimination after amassing a 2-1 lead, and yet I still feel like they are going to win. The obvious parallel to this series is the 2002 Western Conference finals, where the Wings and the Avalanche alternated wins in the first four games before Colorado won game 5 on the road in overtime after it looked like the Wings had it in the bag. The Wings, of course, managed to win games six and seven en route to the Stanley Cup. After that game five loss, however, I didn't think they had much of a chance.

I haven't lost my confidence in the Wings, but I'm not exactly buying into the story that they outplayed Anaheim in games four and five. They certainly outshot the Ducks and spent more time in control of the puck. They may have even outhit the Ducks in yesterday's game, but I don't know if they really outplayed them. Anaheim generated just as many quality scoring chances as the Wings, they just did it with fewer shots. Because Detroit's offense is built around puck control and taking a lot of shots, they often look like they are dominating even when they aren't. When Anaheim was able to gain the zone, they were able to control the puck in a way that Detroit was rarely able to do in the Anaheim zone. They connected on more of their passes, they were able to control the puck behind the goal and in front of it, and their defenders were constantly pinching in and preventing the Wings from making the easy clear.

I couldn't believe how biased the analysts were in favor of Detroit (and I'm a Red Wings fan). Anaheim's fans are a bit upset as well (all eight of them). In the studio between the third period and the start of overtime, they practically declared Detroit the winner and signed off for the afternoon. Even if I'm wrong and Detroit really outplayed the Ducks for 60 minutes, all of that goes out the window in overtime. One mistake or bad bounce and the game is over. I don't think there is any doubt that the Wings got outplayed in OT. In her write-up of the game, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press seemed to attribute both of Anaheim's goals to luck, "a lucky bounce" and "the gift of a turnover". There was certainly an element of luck in Niedermayer's equalizer, but Selanne's game winner was all about skill and effort. It started when Lilja attempted a dangerous cross ice pass from the right side of the goal crease. He fanned on the pass and got muscled off the puck by an Anaheim player, who fed it to Selanne who then promptly deposited it in the back of the net. Luck had nothing to do with that sequence of events.

So why am I still confident that the Wings can win? Because tomorrow night, for the first time since game four, all of the pressure is going to be on the Ducks. The reason the Ducks have been successful despite the unimpressive numbers they have been putting up is because they have been more aggressive than the Wings. It doesn't hurt having J.S. Gigure between the pipes, and perhaps their confidence in their goaltender is what allows them to go on the attack, but come Tuesday night, the Wings will have no more excuses for playing tentative hockey. If guys like Draper and Maltby and especially Holmstrom can start out strong and make a statement early, I like Detroit's chances. If games three and four are any indication, there will be at least as many die hard Red Wings fans as die hard Ducks fans in attendance, so I don't see a big home ice advantage for Anaheim. If the Wings can force a game seven, it's anyone's series to take.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Friday, May 04, 2007

An Appeal

I received an appeal from a former co-worker regarding her father, Dr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir. Dr. Alamgir is a prominent Bangladeshi intellectual, civil servant, and pro-democracy activist who has often clashed with the powers that be in his country. He has been imprisoned and tortured by prior regimes and earlier this year, he was rounded up by the current administration and imprisoned without charge. His children have launched a campaign to raise awareness of his plight and to solicit help and support. A similar campaign in 2002 helped to secure Dr. Alamgir's release from a previous wrongful incarceration. Please do what you can and pass this information on to anyone else who can help.

Independence Day

I wasn't aware of this until I moved here, but Rhode Island actually declared its independence from the British on May 4, 1776, two months ahead of the rest of the colonies.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Seven Up

Rhode Island Philharmonic
Veterans Memorial Arts and Cultural Center - Providence, RI
Wednesday, May 2nd

The headliner at this concert was Itzhak Perlman, who played Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major. It's a coup for any orchestra to bring in a soloist of Perlman's caliber, and as one would expect, there were few empty seats in the house. One of the reasons I don't listen to much classical music anymore is because I find it hard to appreciate something that I am hearing for the first time. Classical music is so circumscribed that conductors and musicians can only make minor tweaks to phrasing and tempos to add their personal touch to a composition. Therefore, it's hard to listen to a single performance in isolation, you need a library of comparable performances of the same piece in you head to tell if you're listening to something truly exceptional.

Beethoven is probably my favorite classical composer, so the all Ludwig van program boded well for me. As I discovered after Perlman began playing, I'm somewhat familiar with the Violin Concerto in D, however, not familiar enough to grade Perlman's performance. Overall, the piece didn't do a whole lot for me. Like most classical performances that I've been to recently, it really didn't hold my attention.

The second half of the concert featured Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. At best, it's his fifth most famous symphony (after the 9th, 5th, 3rd, and 6th), but it's always been one of my favorites. I was cautiously optimistic going into the second half of the concert that I might enjoy what I was about to hear. As it turned out, I was completely blown away by the performance. The thing that I love about the seventh is how boisterous it is. It's constantly bursting with energy and always about to explode but manages to keep everything under control somehow. This point was emphasized by the orchestra, who cranked up the tempo slightly while playing with an almost extreme level of precision. The result was the first time in a long time that I was completely mesmerized by an orchestra.

In some ways, it feels bad to rave about how well a minor-league orchestra played Beethoven's Seventh after hearing one of the most famous soloists in the world play. On the other hand, had Perlman not been the soloist, I probably wouldn't have gone to the concert. In the end, the music matters more than the musician.