[syndicated profile] puck_daddy_feed

Posted by Greg Wyshynski

The Vegas Golden Knights announced in April that Lotus Broadcasting would be “the official radio broadcast partner and radio home” of the NHL expansion team for the next few seasons.

This meant they opted not to go with CBS Radio Las Vegas, home to six highly-rated stations including CBS Sports 1140am. Which did not set well with Tony Perlongo, senior vice president and market manager for CBS Radio in Vegas, who instructed everyone on air not to ever mention the hockey team, going forward.

From Perlongo, in an email published by Ron Futrell:

“A decision has been made that effective immediately, there are to be no further mentions of the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team on any CBS/LV radio stations or any of our social media platforms. This includes, but not limited to, on sale ticket mentions, player/coaches interviews, plugging locals to sing national anthem, TV broadcast schedule, etc. It is now the responsibility of the Golden Knights’ chosen radio partner to help accomplish their goals, not ours.”

Now, you may ask yourself how a Las Vegas sports radio station intended to ignore the inaugural season of the first major professional team to play in the city, and honestly we don’t have a clue. Other than that it’s hockey, which means it’s probably not being discussed on an American sports talk radio station to begin with.

Anyway, Futrell reached out to Perlongo to find out if this giant crybaby act-as-professional guidelines thing was in fact accurate, and he confirmed that it was.

“We have a lot of other things to cover, the Knights don’t work into our coverage,” said Perlongo. “We support their (the Golden Knights) success in the marketplace, but that will depend on their partnership that they’ve already developed.”

This censorship – let’s call it what it is – went more viral than an off-the-strip motel pool, and the backlash was harsh. So Perlongo informed the Washington Post on Wednesday evening that the Golden Knights will in fact be mentioned and discussed on his sacred airwaves:

“With six radio stations in Las Vegas we have always prided ourselves on informing, educating and entertaining listeners and supporting the local communities we serve. However, we missed the mark in an internal email that instructed our stations to no longer report on certain aspects of the Golden Knights, the city’s first and only major league sports team,” Tony Perlongo, CBS Radio Las Vegas senior vice president and market manager, said in a statement provided to The Post. “This was an error in judgement on our part and we deeply regret it. We will of course cover the team, first and foremost on Sports Radio 1140 and on our music and news/talk stations as it makes sense for those formats and audiences. We apologize to the Golden Knights, their fans and our listeners and look forward to rooting the team on when the puck drops in a few weeks.”

And an apology to boot!

Look, this idiotic decision was bound to be short-lived, but we didn’t expect it to have the lifespan of your average White House Communications Director.

The swift reversal of policy speaks to three things: That ignoring a local team, especially one with that new car smell, is bad business; that public shaming for said idiocy is a handy way to affect change; and that we wish hockey fans would take a lesson from this and realize that if you aren’t happy with the amount of coverage your sport gets from a given station in a given market, let your voices be heard.

It may not force “Jimbo and The Goofball” to stop talking about LaVar Ball or whatever long enough to preview the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it could annoy the program director just enough to carve out a little time for our beloved sport here and there. And that’s a start.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.


[syndicated profile] puck_daddy_feed

Posted by Greg Wyshynski

(Ed. Note: It’s the NHL Alternate History project! We’ve asked fans and bloggers from 31 teams to pick one turning point in their franchise’s history and ask ‘what if things had gone differently?’ Trades, hirings, firings, wins, losses, injuries … all of it. How would one different outcome change the course of history for an NHL team? Today: Jason Rogers of Japers’ Rink on the Washington Capitals. Enjoy!)

By Jason Rogers

Early on, before primordial Man first learned to rub two concussion videos together to create Monetization, water froze into ice.

To quote Douglas Adams, “this has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

In the summer of 1974, some of this frozen water eventually made its way to Washington, D.C. by way of NHL expansion. That first Washington Capitals season is still the all-time low-water mark for bumbling futility in NHL history, amassing just eight total wins and somehow managing to cripple public confidence in Washington institutions more in that decade than the literal resignation of the President and the onset of disco.

But when imagining a pivotal Capitals moment to take a cosmic do-over on, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel, or the draft lottery. Forget “what if”-ing your way back through the 2004 NHL Draft, when the bubbling ping pong gods leapt the Capitals over the worse-ranked (gasp) Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins to bequeath them goofy aestheticism’s very avatar himself, Alexander Ovechkin.

Forget the 2001 blockbuster trade that brought a be-mulleted Jaromir Jagr to Washington from Pittsburgh and that, like Blockbuster Video itself, resulted in little more than a short-term rental and eventual financial ruin.

Those are obvious choices, and nothing in D.C. sports is obvious. Not winning, not blowing leads, not trading away Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils for a bag of promotional Mountain Dew hockey pucks and a heap of rotting, unused cap space. No, we need to go deeper.

And by deeper, I inexplicably mean more recent.

What if the Capitals Never Hired Dale Hunter and Adam Oates as Head Coach?

Look, if you love the Capitals, or get a particularly potent brand of sadist’s schadenfreude from watching them suffer, you know all about the first round of the 2009-2010 Stanley Cup Eastern Conference playoffs. You may even have the word “HALAK” tattooed across your stomach in Gothic script like Tupac.

Fresh off the first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history and another 50-goal season from Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals met the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens and back-up wunderkind goaltender Jaroslav Halak in the first round of the playoffs. In the following seven games, Halak would stand on his head so long he should be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, including saving 53-of-54 shots for a simply Martian .981 save percentage in a Game 6 victory. Washington fell to the Canadiens in seven games, and the book on the Capitals was written forever in blood.

Regular season champs, playoff chumps.

Rinse, repeat, recycle, ad infinitum.

The coaching hot seat, then, was already set to “bun warmer” by the time the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup playoffs rolled around the following year. The Capitals had just wrapped up their fourth consecutive Southeastern Division title (ironic t-shirts for sale here!), and essentially steamrolled their way through the New York Rangers in the first round, knocking off the Blueshirts in just five games. In the second round, the Capitals drew the Tampa Bay Lightning, a plucky young upstart club from the Florida panhandle making their first postseason appearance in four years. In an effort to slow down the high-flying Capitals offense, Tampa employed a neutral zone trap. If you’re unfamiliar, the neutral zone trap is a defensive tactic designed to squeeze the life out of an offensive team as it attempts to gain the offensive zone. As a curious side-effect, the trap also squeezes the life out of the fun of hockey, the patience of neutral observers, and the Capitals’ ability to win a single game.

The Lightning swept Washington in four games, and it was another early summer of head-scratching for the boys in Red.

Now, here’s what really happened next: Bruce Boudreau’s reputation as a “great coach who can’t get over the hump” was firmly cemented in the ether of hockey canon, and just one month into the 2011-2012 season, he was unceremoniously [poop]-canned for Capitals legend and then-coach of the OHL’s London Knights, Dale Hunter.

(Fortunately, Boudreau has since shirked that unfair label, throwing off the oppressive mantle of “Can’t Win Big Games” by showing his critics, his fans, and the whole world that-….wait, wait, no, sorry.)

Hunter had never served as head coach in the AHL, let alone the NHL. Which is fine, if you like your commercial airline pilots to have heard the word “plane” before but have only a vague familiarity with the principles of flight. Why, if not for pure, high-octane fan service, did the Capitals choose such an obviously ill-qualified candidate to take over a team that was, by any logical estimation, a mere hop, skip, and a jump away from hoisting the Stanley Cup?

The answer, like all things comedic, is timing.

See, as my fearless leader over on SB Nation’s Japers’ Rink notes, the middle of the season is rarely the most opportune time to go looking for a new head coach.

Had the Capitals had the chutzpah to pull the plug on the Boudreau Era during the offseason, before limping like a drunken giraffe through a full quarter of the schedule, they had several NHL coaching options that, you know, had ever done it before even one single solitary time.

The coaches available during the 2011-2012 offseason included: Ken Hitchcock (currently head coach of the Dallas Stars), Marc Crawford (currently associate coach of the Ottawa Senators), Bob Hartley (who signed on as head coach of the Calgary Flames that season instead), and Craig MacTavish (currently V.P. of Hockey Operations for the resurgent Edmonton Oilers).

Instead of choosing one of these known, proven values during the offseason, the Capitals waited until everyone else had a dance partner, then fired their prom date. With no better options left, Washington hired Guy-With-Lots-Of-Fan-Patience-Built-In Dale Hunter, one of just four players who have had their number retired by the Capitals.

Hunter did, actually, enjoy a modicum of success in his single season coaching the Capitals. Preaching a physicality-first, shot-blocking mindset (one that would make him a raving lunatic in today’s Speed Kills NHL), Hunter led Washington to a first-round victory over the Boston Bruins before falling in seven games in the (you guessed it!) second round to the New York Rangers. In fact, the Capitals got no closer to a championship under Boudreau, and have gotten no closer since Hunter left.

But Hunter quickly decided that being a family man and running essentially a family business in the OHL was more appealing than being a head coach in the National Hockey League, and he quit his first offseason despite the pleading objections of GM George McPhee.

That left McPhee and the Capitals with the second identical choice to make in two years: who to hire as head coach?

This time, timing was on Washington’s side. Hunter, ever the stalwart curmudgeon-turned-loveable-hero, announced his intention to retire (if I quit my job after only a year, is it retirement?) with plenty of time to spare for Washington to make other plans. In fact, former (and current, ain’t life funny?) Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle was available, as was current San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer.

So who did the Capitals pick?

Adam Oates, another Hall of Famer and former Capitals player with absolutely no NHL head coaching experience, that’s who. In fact, of the five head coaching hires George McPhee made as GM of the Washington Capitals, a grand total of zero of them had ever served a single game as an NHL head coach. Oates, at the time, was serving as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils, and many in the media lauded his ability to finally get a two-way game out of big, Russian superstar Ilya Kovalchuk.

You know where this is going, right? In an effort to “rejuvenate” Alex Ovechkin’s career, Oates moved him over to right wing, and heavily emphasized back-checking, defense, and shot-blocking to perhaps the greatest offensive player who ever lived. Ovechkin still managed to win the Rocket Richard Trophy both seasons under Oates, but saw his MVP voting plummet from first to just 23rd by the second year. Ovechkin also recorded his second-lowest career points total in a non-lockout-shortened season under Oates, and saw his average ice time sink like a stone to a full three minutes below his career highs under Boudreau.

A team without an identity and a captain without a prudent coach, the Capitals missed the playoffs in Oates’ second (and first full) season for the only time in the past decade. Oates was finally fired, and replaced with current head coach Barry Trotz.


But let’s go back, way back, to the days of yore. In this case, to 2011.

What if the Capitals had simply sucked it up, taken their medicine, and ripped off the Bruce Boudreau Band-Aid™ in May, after being eliminated from the playoffs?

Well, first of all, they would not have had to scramble, Jofa helmet on fire, for a head coach in November. Chances are very good that Washington would have hired head coach Ken Hitchcock. “Hitch” had coached the Dallas Stars to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances, including their first ever championship. By 2009, Hitchcock had coached 1000 games, won 500, and was already a well-respected legend. In fact, the very same season the Capitals didn’t sign Hitchcock, he won the freaking Jack Adams Award with the St. Louis Blues. Put succinctly, the dude could coach, and everyone knew it.

So let’s say the Capitals hired Ken Hitchcock in 2011. With his track record of coaxing over-achievement from his teams like honeysuckle nectar, past playoff failures would wither in the wind of Hitch’s mighty jowls, steering the Capitals towards victory like the topsails of a clipper ship. I’m not going to sit here and declare, in a bout of masturbatory historical revisionism, that Washington would have won its first Stanley Cup that year. But I will declare, in a bout of kinky revisionist teasing, that the Capitals would likely have gotten beyond the second round of the playoffs, breaching the conference finals like a glorious hockey sperm whale and ejecting so much accumulated failure from their lungs via a fleshy Hitchcock-shaped blowhole.

With the world’s most insistent simian off their backs, the Capitals suddenly became free to chase their dreams like so many unfettered Canadian (and Russian, and Swedish, and American) geese. Fear, replaced by its primal cousin hunger, ceded way in the collective psyche of the Capitals to raw, inevitable desire. “Can’t get past the second round” became “so close we can taste it,” and the general malaise among an entire generation of Washington-based cynics melted away into nothingness like Social Security.

The next season, Hitchcock and the Capitals win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and the first major Washington professional sports championship since I’ve been alive. Instantly, thousands of octogenarian Washingtonians die, happy and relieved of their unimaginable burden. The streets run red with Capitals merchandise and the blood of gaily scuffed beer-opening knuckles and drunken celebratory kerfuffles.

Corrupt politicians, blinded by the white light of Truth, flee the city en masse, and a new Golden Age of just, fair, inclusive politics sweeps the nation like a deluge of fresh air. Wars end, disease is cured, and Futurama is brought back to television five nights a week.

His battle won, his hero’s journey complete, Alex Ovechkin retires from the NHL and returns to Russia to open a successful chain of fast food discotheques where beautiful people serve greasy borscht over thumping basslines.

Beloved by the city and the region, Capitals and Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis successfully creates a Kickstarter to buy the Washington Redskins from marmot-faced billionaire Dan Snyder, and in one fell swoop, the collective nightmares of millions of D.C. sports fans are vanquished.

Leonsis then sells the whole lot and the team is moved to Seattle.

Capitals fans die confused but happy, the best any of us can hope for.


What if … the Islanders never hired Mike Milbury?

What if … Dallas drafted the other Lundqvist brother?

What if … Jonathan Drouin’s Tampa time wasn’t so chaotic? 

What if … Minnesota Wild hired Pierre McGuire as GM? 

What if … Florida had traded Roberto Luongo for Joe Thornton?

What if … the Martin Gelinas goal counted for Calgary?

What if … the Oilers never traded for Chris Pronger?

What if … the Blues had drafted Jonathan Toews instead?

What if … the Bruins never lost Marc Savard?

What if … the Anaheim Ducks drafted Sidney Crosby?

What if … the Red Wings had signed Marian Hossa? 

What if … the Canucks won the first NHL Draft Lottery?

What if … the Hurricanes had signed Sergei Fedorov?

What if … the Flyers hadn’t lost Chris Pronger?

What if … Avalanche never matched Joe Sakic offer sheet?



Aug. 16th, 2017 05:46 pm
rivkat: Rivka as Wonder Woman (Default)
[personal profile] rivkat
Peter Weisz, Puzzle Tov!: Short book of Jewish-themed brainteasers, some of them based on pretty old jokes and some requiring mathematical cleverness. I enjoyed it and was stumped by more than a few, but had the appropriate head-slapping reaction when I read the answers. For a puzzle-loving kid (or even adult) in your life.

Alan Dugatkin & Lyudmila Trut, How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution: Short but fun book about the Soviet/Russian project to breed tame foxes. Wolves and foxes are related enough to make the attempt plausible, but zebras and horses are also closely related enough to breed, and zebras haven’t been successfully domesticated despite numerous attempts, nor have deer except reindeer (even though they live near humans and aren’t usually aggressive towards us, not to mention being important food animals, all of which suggests domestication would be favored if it were feasible). The Soviets picked the least reactive and aggressive foxes and bred them; calmer foxes appeared within three breeding seasons. And slightly greater tameness also shortened their breeding cycle and raised fertility a bit higher, bolstering the theory that in-bred tameness had complex effects on the whole animal. (Unfortunately, these shorter mating cycles didn’t allow multiple fox generations within the same year—although the scientists had sold the project to the Soviet government on the promise of increasing fur production, the shorter cycles meant that the mothers didn’t produce enough milk for their pups, whom they ignored. The scientists hypothesized that a longer transition might have let milk production catch up with increased fertility, as with dogs and cats and pigs and cows.)

Later generations began to exhibit tail-wagging, whining, licking hands, and rolling over for belly rubs—still later, some of the tame foxes’ tails curled, again like dogs. Tamer foxes retained juvenile behaviors longer than wild foxes—wild fox pups are “curious, playful, and relatively carefree when they are very young,” but that changes at around 45 days, when they become more cautious and anxious. After only a decade of breeding, tamer pups stayed curious and playful twice as long.

Tame foxes began gazing into humans’ eyes, which for wild animals is a challenge that can start an attack. Humans themselves, though they weren’t supposed to interact differently with the foxes, couldn’t resist talking to them, petting them, and loving them. When dogs and owners gaze at one another, both see increased oxytocin, leading to increased interactions/petting, “a chemical lovefest.” Adult foxes began to engage in object play—extended play with objects that are known—which wild animals don’t do. (Birds, chimps, and even ants play (with mock fights), but play is usually skill practice.) The tamest fox one year lived with the main researcher for a while, like a dog, and when she returned to her group, she began seeking out caretakers when other foxes were being aggressive toward her. Tame foxes began to demonstrate loyalty to particular caretakers (unlike simply being calm around humans) and jealousy of other foxes who might take their favorites’ attention. They began to bark like guard dogs when strangers appeared. They learned social intelligence: tame fox pups were as smart as dog pups in interpreting human behavior, and smarter than wild fox pups. So selection acting on tameness brought social intelligence along with it, suggesting that there was no need for humans to have bred dogs to be smarter: it could just happen.

The Soviets also tested their work by creating a line of incredibly aggressive foxes using the same selection procedures. Workers were terrified of the new line. When aggressive fox pups were swapped with tame fox pups and raised by mothers from the other line, the pups behaved like their genetic mothers. Genes clearly played vital roles, though tame foxes’ bonds with individual people also showed the role of learned behaviors. The genetic changes worked by changing production of hormones and neurochemicals, like oxytocin. These chemical pathways might help explain why the changes could happen so fast. Tame foxes had higher levels of serotonin than their wild cousins, as dogs have more than wolves.

The evidence supports a theory of destabilizing selection—genes may be similar, but the activity of those genes is very different as between wolves and dogs, chimps and humans. The dramatic changes of domestication seemed to come not primarily from new genetic mutations that were then favored by selection, though that played a role, but from changes in the expression of existing genes that led to very different results. For example, tame foxes started being born with white stars on their foreheads, which happened because the embryonic cells responsible for coloring hair had been delayed in migrating to their places by two days, causing an error in the production of hair color. The expression of the relevant gene was affected by the other changes caused by selecting for tameness. We may even have selected ourselves for tameness using similar mechanisms—we have lower levels of stress hormones in groups than our chimp cousins, we can breed all year round, and our kids stay juvenile longer, like those of other domestic species. And the bonobo may be in the process of doing the same thing, though I’m not sure they’ll have a planet to inherit when their brains get as big as ours.

Speaking of which, the collapse of the Russian economy nearly led to the fox project’s demise. Many foxes starved or nearly starved; others were selected for sale for fur to keep the project alive, a process that also deeply traumatized their caretakers. In 1999, however, a popular science article about the project came out in the US, and they received enough donations to stay afloat, because humans are sentimental. Maybe someday you’ll be able to get your own tame fox pup.

Duncan Green, How Change Happens: Green works in international anti-poverty programs, and argues for a systems approach in which one iteratively works with groups at different levels of the system, leveraging elite points of entry while taking direction from people on the ground. I thought the concept of “positive deviance” was useful—find people in the group you’re trying to help who’ve overcome the problem you’re trying to solve, and see if you can help other people do the same thing, using the positive deviants as the model.

Hack Monuments: The Methods of -punk

Aug. 16th, 2017 07:09 pm
[syndicated profile] storming_ivory_tower_feed
For Steampunk, Solarpunk, and Cyberpunk, aesthetic and meaning go hand in hand. In an age of extinction and resurgent fascism, -punk has a choice: hack that meaning, or become a passive monument for others to fight over.

God forbid, of course, we treat the contents of -punk as though they matter.

This seems to be the dogma I run into any time I criticize a Cyberpunk or Steampunk or Solarpunk work for not being particularly punk or -punk. If Steampunk is culturally understood as nothing more than gears hot glued to a top hat, well, that's just how it is. Anyway, isn't demanding language stay consistent over time elitist and prescriptivist?

The hell with that.

I don't think it's that unreasonable, in the face of an age of extinction and fascism, to criticize works with the word "-punk" in their genre for caring less about sticking it to The Man than being The Man. 

In the context, in particular, of escalating white nationalist violence surrounding the many Confederate statues erected in the United States as a rebuttal to Civil Rights, in the context of the era of cogwheels and steam becoming a site of semiotic and all-too-literal war, that comes off as a pretty cowardly response to critique. Do you really mean to say that after all the energy poured into crafting an aesthetic, selecting symbols from a particular era, manipulating and rewriting them, after all of this work, it was all done for no fucking reason whatsoever, and the end result says nothing of importance?

I never realized that -punk was just a big absurdist performance piece, after all!

Let me grant, though, this: I'm allergic to prescriptivism myself, too genderfucked and neurodivergent and suspicious of authority to be too comfortable with hidebound rules. Listing off a series of "-punk works must contain x, y, and z qualities to be definitionally valid" doesn't seem all that -punk to me. Hell, I'd even put up some resistance to the idea that -punk should be particularly Punk Rock, if only because Neuromancer, the progenitor text, so clearly is using "punk" in a more abstract way. Case isn't walking around with band patches held onto his clothes with safety pins. 

This is ok, though, because what's important to me isn't whether there's gears on your hat but what those gears actually do. Not in the sense of what they do mechanically, though I'd appreciate a practical -punk, but what work they do as symbols. Do those gears make up The Machine or do they express the rage against it? Do those gears move or are they inert?

Bluntly: when the lines are drawn up between the Nazis rallying around a Confederate monument, and the antifascists who would tear down the symbol of hate...

Are you and your gears on the right side of that line?

Or are you and your gears on the left side of that line?

Or do all your costumes and gadgets turn you into the passive monument in the middle?

There's an incredible narrative jump early in Dreadnought, Cherie Priest's volume in her Clockwork Century project, her attempt at creating a defining series for Steampunk. We jump from the nurse protagonist Mercy Lynch trying to decide whether or not to travel across the country to meet her estranged, dying father... to Mercy already on the titular Dreadnought, a Union train, as it desperately tries to outrun the Confederate train the Shenandoah. It was an incredible moment for me because it highlighted the way that narratives can be filled in by the reader, even across massive leaps. Neal Stephenson, himself critical to -punk narrative developments, employs such tricks, jumping from interesting idea to interesting idea and trusting that the reader will keep up. It's exhilarating.

It was also not at all how the book is actually constructed. No, it turned out that my idiot music player on my phone stuck parts 10-12 of the audio book directly after part 1. That massive leap in time and space wasn't an avant garde technique, it was just a technological cockup.

I'm glad it happened, though, because it highlighted for me the fact that a large part of Mercy's journey could be plucked out without really altering the plot of the story. That's not that surprising--this is something Roland Barthes identifies as a function of storytelling rhetoric in his narratological theory. The basic form of a story is the series of essential plot points that cannot be added or subtracted without altering the narrative. The rest is just window dressing.

Or, not just window dressing. Window dressing is never just window dressing. A shop window display can carry a ton of potent meaning, and a statue is more than mere representation. A story might be defined by its overall contours, but a lot of the interest to stories, according to Barthes, comes from what other information is included or excluded, what other side-moments and non-essential descriptions enter into the text. For speculative fiction, all this side detail is, in fact, the main show. Even narratives that might follow the same contours regardless of setting (does it matter that clipping.'s Splendor and Misery is set not on a slave ship but a slave spaceship?) fundamentally transform when given new aesthetics, new worldbuilding mechanics, and new contexts (yes, it's crucial that Splendor and Misery is set on a slave spaceship because that reveals the glorious future of hard sci fi is still colonized territory!).

And the main show for Dreadnought--the main show, in fact, for the whole of the Clockwork Century series--is the variety of people caught up and trying to stay afloat within a war-torn world of disastrous politics and rampant technology. This material is what makes the Clockwork Century books truly -punk.

I could try and define -punk and lay out a set of principles that the tradition that begins with Cyberpunk, was reapplied elsewhere in time as Steampunk, and has since splintered into wider genres like Dieselpunk, Biopunk, and Solarpunk should adhere to. We agreed, though, to blow off The Man's prescriptivism, though--even our own. Besides, I didn't go into any of Priest's novels--or William Gibson's or Neal Stephenson's for that matter--with a set test for what -punk or what specifically Cyberpunk or Steampunk are, and compare those works to the platonic ideal.

Here's what I got out of them instead: Prototypes. Methods.

Think of it like this: Dreadnought contains massive war trains, zeppelins, and steam-powered mech suits. It's awesome. It also contains drugs that turn people into zombies. That's also awesome. A prescription for Steampunk might require the trains, airships, and mechs. It might exclude zombies as off-genre. Or it might not!

But in Priest, these elements aren't a prescription, they're a method. The zombies, for example: they as a haunting reminder of the slaughter of the Civil War. This is a useful way of making tangible the cost of this Steampunk world. Their mechanism of spreading--through the drug "sap"--is also a solid -punk example of new technology being converted into poison, analogous to Snow Crash or the drugs Gibson's protagonists must take in order to best other hackers. 

It's that contemporary boogieman Worldbuilding, god help us, and it's aesthetic, and a narrative driver, and it represents a method of exploring ideas about power, technology, and social sickness. It's an onrushing apocalypse brought on by a combination of the white greed that saw the South desperately cling to a disintegrating economic order, and... well, more white greed, as drug lords erect a whole zombie-spawning industry built on numbing, temporarily, the mass trauma of the Civil War. And all this in the context of an independent Texas that wants the war to continue because it's making so much money selling its newly developed diesel technology to the Confederacy, and a Union eager to snatch up Western territories.

Who's killing the world? Priest needs no black-hatted sky pirate to twirl his waxed mustache. The aesthetics, the symbols, her methods of doing Steampunk have the answer, as bold as any monument.

You could replace practically every meeting with every side character Mercy Lynch runs into on her way from one coast to the other with something or something else and get a story that would largely follow the same contours. The plot (and Dreadnought itself) chug along regardless of whether Mercy meets up with, say, the freed black woman who owns her own restaurant, for example. That's what makes the meeting important. The meeting reveals that as the Civil War grinds on, slavery must end, because the mass military apparatus necessary to maintaining an economy built on chattel slavery is busy fighting the Union. It reveals Mercy's complex position: willing to help the woman's injured son, but also unsure how to act towards someone who previously was far below her in the social order and now is, at least economically speaking, arguably her superior. It reveals, through an encounter with a wealthy, elderly Southern couple, that all the much lauded Southern Hospitality doesn't count for much when the Hospitable Southerners discover that they're eating in the (franchise!) restaurant of a free black woman. 

Oh, and it reveals that Benioff and Weiss have failed upwards, "Confederacy" is gonna be a terrible show, and sff should be handed over to the more capable hands of literally anyone other than cishet white dudes.

What encounters like this do is introduce the audience to a wide spread of the social order. The mechanisms of economics, war, prejudice, and social inertia add up to a complex machine, and through these interactions Priest is giving us a glimpse into the workings of that machine. They offer a look into the world Priest created, its politics, and its moments of potentially radical change.

The other books operate similarly: Boneshaker explores not just the ins and outs of how the Walled City of Seattle, filled with the zombie-spawning blight gas, still functions under its cloud of toxins, but also the nature of the city's secretive inhabitants. Ganymede splits its time between Texan-occupied New Orleans and the resistance fighters there (seen through the eyes of a black woman whose bordello doubles as a spy operation) and the route to New Orleans from Seattle (seen through the eyes of the enormous air pirate who has been hired by the resistance to secret the submarine prototype Ganymede out of the city). While all the books share characters, they tell separate narratives, focus on separate protagonists, and each supplement the plot with a range of encounters with side characters that flesh out the world.

Oh, and it's telling that the protagonists are a pirate, a resistance spy and sex worker, a battlefield nurse, and a middle aged mother. How many Steampunk stories focus on aristocrats in their fanciful airships? These stories focus on low class women, on people struggling to get by in the world, on people whose power extends as far as their loyal companions and the guns they hold and no further (even if those guns might be, like, sonic or steam guns). 

My point isn't that -punk stories definitionally require low class protagonists, or even that they must be as sprawling as the Clockwork Century books, it's that making an aesthetic and narrative choice about who to focus on does different work, reveals or obscures truths about the setting. And it's not just the choice of protagonist but the choice to populate the world and explore it in depth, the choice to introduce a wide variety of perspectives, that strikes me as doing something radical, something -punk. 

The idea of defining -punk not just by aesthetic signifiers but by what those signifiers do isn't unique to me, of course. That's kind of core to Solarpunk's whole deal, at least in theory. Some of its chosen aesthetics carry cool potential. Take Art Nouveau, for example, beloved by Steampunks and Solarpunks alike. I can't speak to all Art Nouveau artists, but Alphonse Mucha, famed poster-maker, had leftist leanings and was interested in an elevation of daily life through the beauty of nature. That's a damn good start! The somewhat related Arts and Crafts movement proposed a return to craft as a response to the cheap factory goods and miserable factory conditions of industrialization.

The history of these aesthetics, though, is a problem for Steam and Solarpunk. See, the cost of these hand crafted goods was just by necessity more than the more easily and cheaply produced factory goods. Mucha himself became something of a pet for the elite of Paris and gradually found that his ability to create works of deeper significance was hampered by his constant production of commercial work and commissions from the bourgeoisie. An enrichment of daily life, to be sure... but for whom? If using the aesthetics is to do more work than just Looking Nice, and to avoid standing passively as a prize to be won between the line between fascism and resistance, we need a better model for integrating them into -punk.

"What Is Solarpunk?" is, despite the title, less an explanation of Solarpunk as it stands than a design document for what Solarpunk might be. I'd call it a manifesto but design document really feels a bit more fitting to me--the aim of passages where it lays out stylistic roots while asserting that Solarpunk "engenders a celebration of hybridity while still being sensitive to the problems of cultural appropriation" seems to be to set out a kind of creative best practices list, a methodology. It's kind of telling that Solarpunk is so distant from reality that even the description of its speculative fiction is, itself, speculative, a utopian vision of a utopian vision. And yet, this document more grounded than a lot of -punk.

For author Connor Owens, punk and -punk are political projects, a kind of orientation against the powers that be--against The Man--and towards the oppressed. This might not jive perfectly well with a history of punk (after all, this could just as easily describe hippies as punks!) but that's kind of beside the point when we're talking about something that is so many mutations removed from The Clash. What's really important here is that Owens is setting out an aesthetic and narrative standard here that privileges the unprivileged. This is a pretty far remove from the strands of steampunk that slap clockwork onto Victorian aristocrats and call it a day!

This is critical for a speculative fiction movement. Aesthetics, narrative, and politics are all deeply interwoven here, because who in the imagined world you focus on radically alters all three simultaneously. Moreover, divorcing once strand of these things (aesthetics, typically, but I could also point to the adoption of many-times-removed "pulp" narrative tropes) from the others, and from politics in particular, leaves things kind of hollow. That's what amr al-aaser argues occurs in cyberpunk works that stray too far from the movement's political roots. For al-aaser, the aesthetic choices of cyberpunk are visual signs, they signify certain political concerns, and using them without understanding the politics behind them results in an incoherent and empty set of utterances.

These design documents vie against a constant conversational drift that voids the visual language of -punk of its meaning and significance. For al-aaser in particular, Cyberpunk's imagery does particular things, expresses ideas and about technology and the way it overtakes humanity. Phil Sandifer pointed out to me after my first article that Steampunk might best be seen as doing the work of Cyberpunk with Victorian technology. That certainly fits the Clockwork Century books. The first advanced technology Mercy encounters is one of the otherworldly Walkers, off in the distance, a steam powered mech suit crashing through the trees, seemingly unstoppable. Oh, and, of course, there are the men she encounters in an advanced stage of sap addiction, their bodies beginning to rot, nearly insensible and increasingly driven to bite at anything living that comes near. Technology, in the context of war, becoming a force unto itself, egged on by characters like the doctor seeking to transform the blight gas into a mass chemical weapon, all for the sake of his own professional advancement and profit.

For the characters in these books, the power of technology, like postmodernism and the apocalypse, is something inflicted on them... but it's not really the main show. The giant drilling engine Boneshaker, for example, doesn't do a damn thing in its book. It's only important to the extent that its joyride through Seattle tore open the hole in the earth that unleashed the blight gas, more than a decade before the story begins! These books each draw their title from some sort of machine, but in the same way that the outline of the plot isn't really the main show, Priest doesn't seem all that interested in doing a Jules Verne breakdown of her devices.

What matters is exploring the way ordinary people deal with the sudden imposition of technology into their lives, and the way that technology, economics, and politics constrain them... and the way they fight back.

Here's what we've learned about monocultures: they get blights. They're vulnerable. They're easy to co-opt.

My big beef with superheroes for a while now has been the way they tend to cause narratives to bend and warp around them, the whole world transformed to facilitate the singular protagonist. In our fascist hour, though, a narrative ecology based on monocultures is unsustainable. No single savior is coming to defeat the singular villain, The Man is much too big and diffuse for just one hero, one story, one perspective to take down. If there's one thing the media age defined by the Marvel Cinematic Universe can give to us, it's the idea of telling many stories, with many heroes, not all of whom will always get along.

Aesthetics that mutter only to themselves trend similarly towards sterility. Oh, don't give me the "frankenfood" line, but if you want to talk about how patented genes give monopoly control to a few Cyberpunk-style megacorps, I'm listening. Alphonse Mucha said to copy nature, not to copy Mucha, and even Mucha didn't create mere clones of plants, sowing the same engineered seeds in all his work, but explored different forms for different contexts, his religious work different from his poster work different from his political work.

Can Steampunk survive an aesthetic war over Confederate monuments and over a Victorian history that is, already, all too white? If it's going to, it's got to start looking to its prototypes, adapting their methods. Can Solarpunk survive an age of extinction where we might get dress makers and Art Nouveau solar panels for the few, drought and devastation for the many? If it's going to, it's got to think beyond how fashion and design look and focus on what they do.

Because god forbid, of course, we treat the contents of -punk as though they don't matter.

Doing -punk seems to me about doing work to push back against monoculture and The Man. Doing -punk might mean writing like Priest does, multiple heroes sharing a world, the narrative about the journey through that world and the perspectives in it. Not necessarily, of course--not every -punk story needs to have a sprawling journey, just as not ever -punk story needs bomb throwing anarchists. (Though more of that sort of thing is to be encouraged in the strongest terms.)

Not every -punk story needs protagonists who are heroes, even, or people who succeed. Certainly Cyberpunk has its share of broken and detestable protagonists, and that's not a bad thing. The flip side of taking a stand against The Man is the reality that The Man--capitalism, inequality, white supremacist patriarchy, heteronormativity, and the specific institutions and organizations that those systems beget--has big fucking boots that He uses to stomp on human faces, forever. Doing -punk might demand a range of aesthetics that reveals that reality so that it can be acted upon.

I suppose all this is a way of saying that -punk's methods should be geared toward a spirit of revolution. If its aesthetics are about grappling with, visualizing, responding to, and finally taking control of various technological and inevitably political regimes, its storytelling should probably mirror that. So where's the spirit of revolution in Boneshaker, Dreadnought, and Ganymede? Well, Annie Wilkes does totally upset the social order in Seattle by way of deposing the vicious kingpin posing as her husband (who, incidentally, it turns out she ALSO shot, because he was a bastard). And of course Josephine and Andon, the dual protagonists of Ganymede, end up using their submarine to blow up a bunch of Texan ships, so that's pretty rad.

But Mercy Lynch certainly does nothing of the sort. She's just a woman on a train, for the most part, and nothing she does fundamentally alters the course of the war, though it no doubt had meaningful impact on its contours.

That's cool though. I mean I don't think that fundamentally undermines the extent to which Mercy is a -punk character, within the context of her narrative. I don't think the spirit of -punk demands she hurl bombs at the leaders of the Confederacy. That's not really an accurate perspective on what it's like to exist under the heel of hegemonic power--not everyone's going to be a hero, and not every -punk story should be a power fantasy.

What Mercy brings to the table is a growing willingness, over the course of the novel, to plant herself in the path of history and demand a new direction for the actions of people in authority over her, a willingness to discard the trappings of polite culture and the expectations placed on her, and a resistance to the technocrats leveraging violence for their own ends. It is Mercy who begins to piece together their state with the stories of a Mexican battalion gone mad and turned to cannibalism, providing the crucial information that allows the Confederates, Unionists, Texan ranger, and Mexican agents who wind up on the train to recognize the oncoming zombie crisis. It is Mercy who uncovers the purpose for the bodies contained in the Dreadnought's caboose--raw material for a plan to weaponize the blight gas--and convinces the commanding Union officer that developing such a weapon, even for the Union, would be an unconscionable atrocity.

Mercy, in a way, comes across to me as the most -punk character of all, not because she fits some prearranged definition of what a hero should look like, but because of the way she engages with her world and grows from passively having events inflicted upon her (the death of a husband in the war; the summons by an estranged father) to actively piecing together information, making alliances with the other groups on board the Dreadnought, and loudly informing men with considerably more power than her where she stands in terms of right and wrong.

Mercy's not a born hacker god or whatever the Steampunk equivalent of that would even be. She's just a nurse. But she pays attention to the world around her and, ultimately, she makes a judgment and picks her side. She is not a power fantasy, but neither is she passive, and she has a hacker's relationship to information: she compiles it, correlates it, makes connections and uses it to demand the consideration of those with more power.

Aesthetics, worldbuilding, and methods of storytelling are the main show in science fiction and fantasy. They are the information-carriers. -Punks can certainly just clothe themselves in this range of symbols without worrying too much about it, if they're that deeply committed to being showroom dummies. But I think, when you strip away all the prescriptions, what -punk at its best asks:

Are you someone else's monument, or are you an aesthetic hacker?

I’m a statue of a man who looks nothing like a man
But here I stand
Grim and solid
No scarlet secret’s mine to hold
Just a century of cold and thin and useless
Sexless knowledge

This Has Been:

Hack Monuments

[syndicated profile] pensburgh_feed

Posted by Hooks Orpik

Matt Cullen has signed with the Minnesota Wild, so now seems like a really good time for the Pittsburgh Penguins to get crackin’ on adding more centers

Matt Cullen has taken his sweet time for the past three years to decide deep in the summer where he would play hockey. The last two times he decided to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins. This year, however, he’s returning home to the Minnesota Wild.

This wasn’t a monetary issue to leave Pittsburgh, nor was there anything else the Pens could have done to sway the decision. This was a lifestyle, family decision that works best for the Cullen’s at this point.

Cullen leaves Pittsburgh with 2 Stanley Cup championships in his 2 seasons in the ‘Burgh. Playing mostly a 4th line role, he scored 32 and 31 points in his two years, fantastic production and one of the best bargains in the league too signing for barely more than NHL minimum wage. He was a great fit stylistically with his speed and skill and helped elevate the Pens 4th line from the disasters of the Adams/Glass/Sill years up to be a capable and successful line.

Now, though, it’s time to move on. Pens GM Jim Rutherford insinuated back in July that he had a trade tentatively made to acquire a center, but wanted to wait to see if a better deal would open up. One would think now with no Cullen in the fold, it’s time to quickly acquire some depth.

After Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins best centers in the organization are some amalgamation of Carter Rowney, Teddy Blueger, Jean-Sebastien Dea and Greg McKegg. That’s obviously not depth for any NHL team, let alone a back-to-back champion NHL team.

A major domino in the summer has fallen, and it hasn’t gone Pittsburgh’s way. Matt Cullen has joined an exodus of veterans (Nick Bonino, Marc-Andre Fleury, Trevor Daley, Chris Kunitz, Ron Hainsey) who have departed Pittsburgh this summer. Now, it’s time to add an NHL caliber center or two in order to shore up the team before the start of the season. No need to panic but it will be interesting to see what move Rutherford is able to make.

[syndicated profile] puck_daddy_feed

Posted by Greg Wyshynski

The general rule of thumb for long-term contracts in the NHL: Players trade money for term, and general managers trade term for money.

Leon Draisaitl, 21, got both in his eight-year, $68-million deal with the Edmonton Oilers announced on Tuesday, giving him an $8.5 million cap hit through the 2024-25 season. It’s another classic overpayment from general manager Peter Chiarelli, who you might know from such hits as the David Krejci extension in Boston and the Milan Lucic deal with the Oilers.

The question this time is whether overpayment is justified.

This is the fourth-highest second contract of the NHL salary cap era, a list populated by Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. In three of those cases, they signed deals after having won the Hart Trophy.

OK, let’s bring this into a tighter focus on Draisaitl: It’s an overpayment if you judge the deal on accepted dogma and Draisaitl’s current trajectory as a player; it’s completely reasonable if Draisaitl ends up being the Malkin to Connor McDavid’s Crosby in a burgeoning Oilers Dynasty.

Let it be said that Draisaitl is a fantastic young star, and that the Oilers were lucky the rest of the NHL has an allergy to offer sheets. He completed his third season by setting a career-high with 77 points (29G, 48A). He had 16 points in 13 playoff games. He has 137 points in 191 career games.

This is No. 1 center money. Actually, it’s more than that: There are only five centers who will make more against the cap than Draisaitl next season: Jonathan Toews ($13.8 million, 29 years old), Anze Kopitar ($13 million, 29), Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million, 31), Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million, 31) and Steven Stamkos ($8.5 million, 27).

Together, this group has 11 Stanley Cups, four Conn Smythe trophies and three Hart trophies.

No. 9 on that list is Ryan Johansen, the 25-year-old Nashville Predators forward who has proof of concept as a No. 1 center for two different teams. He’ll make $8 million against the next season.

The Edmonton Journal noted that:

“One big difference is that Nashville paid for just one RFA year and seven more expensive UFA years. This is why Draisaitl getting a RyJo contract would be generous on the part of the Oilers, even if you happen to think Draisaitl will be a better player than RyJo over the next eight years.”

That Draisaitl got more than Johansen, then, would drag this contract from generosity to overcompensation. Again, based on the typical dogma for these kinds of things.

But the Oilers, we can agree, aren’t a typical situation.

They’re Connor McDavid’s team, which means it’s assumed that they’re going to challenge for a Stanley Cup, and probably win one, within the next eight years. Crosby played for the Cup in his third season, and won his first in his fourth season. Next season will be McDavid’s third in the NHL.

You don’t have to pay McDavid’s winger $8.5 million annually to convert passes from a hockey deity. That person should make Chris Kunitz money. Hell, that person should play the Oilers for the privilege. But eventually, these wingers might earn that much because their stats are undeniable and the market dictates it. Draisaitl, who skated with McDavid last season, isn’t there yet.

But if you believe Draisaitl is a top-line center playing behind the best player in the world, giving you an unparalleled one-two punch in the Western Conference, then eight years and $8.5 million annually does make a modicum of sense. Because why dither around with bridge contracts and incremental gains if you feel this championship team will be built on the backs of McDavid, 20, and Draisaitl, 21? Why not lock up Draisaitl now, knowing that today’s overcompensation is tomorrow’s justifiable cost after their first Stanley Cup?

In a sense, Chiarelli might have learned a thing or two after (over)paying for success with the Boston Bruins: If you’re going to have ante up later, might as well do it sooner. Paying for potential could bite you in the ass, but it’s a better recipe for sustainability than paying David Krejci a $7.25 million hit for six seasons based on previous success. You know what you have with your two best players for the next eight seasons. There will be no surprises.

Yes, by any logical measurement of these types of contracts, Leon Draisaitl was just overpaid by his general manager. And yes, a top-heavy team in salary – they’ll have $21 million tied up in McDavid and Draisaitl beginning in 2018-19 – leads to migraines on your cap as the rest of the team asks for its reward.

That their combined cap hit is also that of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks would seem like a harbinger of things to come. Then again, Toews and Kane were paid for what they had accomplished, not what they might.

But that’s the gamble: That the McDavid Oilers will win a Stanley Cup or two, and that Draisaitl can anchor his own line rather than excel best with McDavid.

It’s a heavy bet.

But then when have you known a lottery winner to be frugal?

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.


Wednesday: What Are You Reading?

Aug. 16th, 2017 04:48 pm
[syndicated profile] cap_ironman_feed

Posted by cap_im_daily

In the spirit of new comic book day, Wednesdays are dedicated to discussing anything on your reading list right now! Have you picked up any new releases today? Finally started a novel you've been putting off for way too long? Keeping preoccupied with some fanfiction? Don't hesitate to talk about whatever story's on your mind!

Join the discussion on Dreamwidth!
[syndicated profile] puck_daddy_feed

Posted by Ryan Lambert


(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

8 – Jeremy Roenick

Nice to occasionally be reminded that nothing will ever be less surprising than Jeremy Roenick, who has as many Cups as I do, being a MAGA CHUD.

You can always count on this guy for the worst opinions on everything. Why should a BLM protest be any different?

7 – Remember that time Gretzky got traded?

Yes. Can we please not talk about it literally every Aug. 9? I know this year’s anniversary was a big one: ….. 29?

Good lord, get over it.

6 – The passage of time

The idea that Sidney Crosby is somehow already 30 years old is, to me, repugnant.

I understand this is how time and aging works, but it really does seem like just yesterday he came into the league, right? Part of the issue is that he had a few lost seasons in his mid-20s — these were his primest-of-prime years, and based on the blistering pace at which he was scoring, the lost games probably shaved between 170 and 190 points off his career total. Imagine if he’d hit 1,000 career points two-plus years before he did?

But man, the idea that we’re now much closer to the end of Sidney Crosby’s career than the start of it is a bummer. It’s great he’s getting all the recognition that comes with winning two straight Cups, but it’s weird to think about: When we talk about “players on the wrong side of 30” that now includes the player who has been the best in the league almost since he came into it 12 years ago.

Hell, I’ve been writing on a regular basis about guys being too old to play in the league any more since forever, and they’re starting to be younger than me.

Davos Seaworth was right about time, I gotta tell ya. I hope Crosby plays until he’s 40 just so I don’t have to really, truly face my own mortality for another decade.

5 – Stanley Cup odds

Earlier this week we got more Stanley Cup odds, via Westgate. No surprise here, but the Penguins led the way at 6:1 favorites. Right behind them? The Oilers at 9:1. Not sure I get that one.

Then things got weird in a hurry: Tampa, Washington, Chicago, and Minnesota were 12:1. Do any of those make a lot of sense to you? Tampa maybe, but Washington and Chicago are bound for a good-sized step back, and Minnesota, well, let’s see them win one playoff round before we say they’re tied for third (even if I like their summer).

Toronto and Nashville are next at 14:1, which I buy on both counts. I think this might actually be a little pessimistic, in fact. But tied with them are Anaheim and Dallas, which I’m gonna pass on.

The Habs and Rangers are next, at 16:1, which I guess feels right. Then San Jose and Los Angeles come in at 20:1.

While I won’t go through the whole list, I will say this: If those are the 14 teams with the highest point totals in the league next year — not necessarily in that order, obviously — that feels just about right.

After that, the odds get a little wonky. The Blues and Flames have the same odds? The Panthers’ odds are better than all the Metro teams not listed above? Yeah, okay.

4 – Ranking the wings

Speaking of rankings, and since we’re in August, why not: Let’s make fun of the NHL Network’s latest list of player rankings.

This time they did all wingers, 1-20, and the list was, well… it was better than last week’s goalie list.

And the Top 20 Wings Right Now are…#NHLTopPlayers pic.twitter.com/JDQEV17bmd

— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) August 14, 2017

Tough to argue with Patrick Kane at No. 1. Vladimir Tarasenko seems a bit low at No. 4. Joe Pavelski got the kind of “he’s a center who plays wing” love that Leon Draisaitl inexplicably did not, and anyway he’s not the seventh-best winger in the sport. Not sure how you keep Filip Forsberg at just 14. Taylor Hall’s entirely too low as well.

The thing that got people really upset, for some reason, was the idea that Brad Marchand, coming off his second straight season of more than 37 goals and being an elite possession player for half a decade at this point, is somehow better than Jamie Benn. I not only see the argument, but I 100 percent agree with it.

Once Marchand started getting power play time in Boston two years ago — something Benn has always enjoyed in Dallas — his production took off. Weird how that works out. Obviously, the argument in Benn’s favor is that he has 324 points in his last 324 regular-season games, including winning a scoring title in 2014-15. Tough to argue with that kind of production over a four-year period, during which time Marchand is well below a point a game.

But I think if you look carefully at the list, you can see they probably looked at the last three seasons total but weighted the most recent one more heavily, which is fair enough. And in that season, ah look, Marchand had 13 more goals and 16 more points than did Benn. Add in the huge CF% impact Marchand had for his club, and has had for years and years, and it’s no surprise why they put him ahead of Benn.

(And before you start saying, “Well anyone can look good playing with Patrice Bergeron!” you’ll have to guess who Benn’s most common teammate was this season. I’ll give you a hint: It was perennial NHL All-Star Tyler Seguin.)

Anyway, Marchand is absolutely a top-three or four winger in the world at this point. Anyone arguing otherwise is still mad about low-bridges from five years ago.

And while we’re on the subject of Bruins first-liners…

3 – Not-trading David Pastrnak

Here’s the thing about that “The Bruins’ negotiations with David Pastrnak are going sideways and they might trade him” rumor: That always seemed very unlikely. Former agents who post that kind of thing, well, it always strikes me as being a rumor started on the player’s side. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s all leveraging and politics and so on.

Now, with that having been said, here’s the other thing about that “The Bruins’ negotiations with David Pastrnak are going sideways and they might trade him” rumor: For no other franchise in the league would such a rumor be remotely believable. But this is the Bruins we’re talking about.

In chronological order:

In 2005, they traded Joe Thornton, when he was 26.

In 2007, they traded Kris Versteeg, when he was 21.

In 2009, they traded Phil Kessel when he was 22.

In 2011, they traded Blake Wheeler, when he was 23.

In 2013, they traded Tyler Seguin, when he was 21.

In 2015, they traded Dougie Hamilton, when he was 21.

Man, that’s a lot of star players (plus Versteeg, who’s been a useful depth piece forever), almost all traded for negative value during or before their primes, all in consecutive odd-numbered years — fun coincidence — for a decade-plus. And of those trades, only Thornton’s and Wheeler’s were mid-season.

So it’s an odd-numbered year again, and they have a 21-year-old star-in-the-making (he had 70 points last season, people forget that). Then a rumor crops up that he might get traded? You might still take that with a grain of salt, but it’d have to be an awful large grain. Just because, man, look at that track record.

Turns out, it wasn’t in the Bruins’ plans. Or at least, that’s what Don Sweeney said when asked about it. Of course, they might have said the same thing about Hamilton. Or Seguin. Or Wheeler. Or Kessel.

2 – The KHL

Big week for the KHL in signing a bunch of, ahem, NHLers. Okay, the fact that they’re gonna hold on to wild uber-prospect Kirill Kaprizov for another three years is good for them because it seems like Kaprizov is a player.

But these other guys: Marek Mazanec! Dwight King! Maybe Brandon Prust!

This is what we’re gonna see in the Olympics. These are top-six forwards and starting goalies without the NHL. Ah jeez.

1 – PHIL!

No one in this sport has ever deserved happiness as much as Phil Kessel, a cancer survivor who spent years being constantly derided by a bunch of know-nothing dumbasses because he was the best player on a bad team, but who has since won two straight Stanley Cups being the fourth-best player on a very good team.

Let us hope the hot dog thing, which was maybe the lowest, most cowardly — and factually inaccurate! — attack on his character and work ethic of his tenure in Toronto, never goes away in his mind. I hope he has pictures of hot dogs taped up in his locker and around his home, to remind him always that the bastards want to grind you down.

Laugh and be happy, Phil!

Meanwhile, Steve Simmons was able to soldier through a crybaby radio appearance about it despite his current status as a huge corn cob.

(Not ranked this week: Not signing Jagr.

Here’s an idea I can cotton to: Jagr doesn’t sign with an NHL team right away. Slums it in Europe for a few months. Plays in the Olympics. Signs a pro-rated deal after the Olympics and helps some contender as what is effectively a deadline pickup. Wins a Cup. Refuses to retire.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)


[syndicated profile] postgazette_penguins_feed

Posted by By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Penguins Prospectus is an offseason project by Post-Gazette hockey writers Jason Mackey and Sam Werner that each weekday through Sept. 15 will examine 28 parts of the organization. Players and team personnel will appear according to when they played, coached or managed their first game with the Penguins, starting with Antti Niemi and ending with Sidney Crosby. For the full list of entries, click here.

[syndicated profile] pensburgh_feed

Posted by t.cann112

Full breakdown of the Penguins moves this off-season. Complete with links from Pensburgh and other NHL sources.

Pittsburgh Penguins

50-21-11, 111 pts / 278 GF(1st)/229 GA(17th)

Cap room (Per CapFriendly as of 8/15/17): $3.2 million - 22/23 NHL contracts

Brought in/back:

  • 7/30/17 Conor Sheary - 3 yr / $9 mil
  • 7/24/17 Brian Dumoulin - 6 yr / $24.6 mil
  • 7/1/17 Justin Schultz - 3 yr / $16.5 mil
  • 7/1/17 Antti Niemi - 1 yr / $700k
  • 7/1/17 Matt Hunwick - 3 yr / $6.75 mil
  • 6/22/17 Chad Ruhwedel - 2 yr / $650k
  • 7/12/17 Derrick Pouliot - 1 yr / $800k
  • 7/1/17 Casey DeSmith - 2 yr / $1.3 mil
  • 7/1/17 Frank Corrado - 1 yr / $650k
  • 7/1/17 Tom Sestito - 1 yr / $650k
  • 7/1/17 Jarred Tinordi (D) - 1 yr / $650k
  • 7/1/17 Chris Summers (D) - 2 yr / $1.3 mil
  • 7/1/17 Greg McKegg (C) - 1 yr / $1.3 mil

Moved on:

  • Marc-Andre Fleury - Expansion Draft
  • Nick Bonino - NSH, 4 yr / $16.4 mil
  • Trevor Daley - DET, 3 yr / $9.5 mil
  • Ron Hainsey - TOR, 2 yr / $6 mil
  • Chris Kunitz - TBL, 1 yr / $2 mil
  • Mark Streit - MON, 1 yr / $1 mil

Projected Line-up:


Conor Sheary - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel

Carl Hagelin - (Bryan Rust*) - Daniel Sprong

Scott Wilson - (Carter Rowney) - Ryan Reaves

(Zach Aston-Reese - Greg McKegg -Tom Kuhnhackl)

*I know Rust is not a center, which is why his name is in parenthesis. The logjam at RW is the reason I have this line-up, which the Pens have never really used before.


Olli Maatta - Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin - Justin Schultz

Matt Hunwick - Ian Cole

(Derrick Pouliot - Chad Ruhwedel)


Matt Murray

Antii Niemi

Dark Horse:

The Penguins lost two-thirds of a very solid third line with Chris Kunitz and Nick Bonino’s departures. Both of them averaged nearly .5 ppg, which is above average for third line forwards productivity. Replacing them will not be easy.

Scott Wilson put up 28 points in 78 games, despite averaging just under 11 minutes per game last year. He put up another 3 goals and 3 assists in 20 playoff games as well. Those aren’t great numbers, but it’s far more than Hagelin put up in the playoffs (15 gp, 2g, 0a; empty net in G6 SCF) and regular season. If Wilson finds himself with more minutes, he could put up some pretty decent numbers. He’s shown nothing but improvement since joining WBS in 2014. He was taken 3rd from last in the 2011 draft, and I was quick to think he’d be the best pick in that round, but taken right before Wilson was Ondrej Palat. Palat is having himself quite a career as well. Scott Wilson’s name is on the Cup however, and he may be ready for the next step forward now that he’s worked his way to get this far, so why stop now?

The Penguins best prospect at forward, and likeliest player to get significant playing time is Daniel Sprong. He was injured at the beginning of last year until January, and was returned to juniors, where he absolutely tore it up with Charlottetown of the QMJHL. He scored 32 goals in 31 games. The Dutch forward looks to be the best candidate to fill in a scoring role in the top-9, something that wasn’t likely possible without the loss of Kunitz and Bonino. Now is his time to shine.

The other prized forward for the Penguins is recent NCAA free agent, Zach Aston-Reese out of Northeastern University. He scored 8 points, 3 goals and 5 assists, in a 10 game stint with WBS at the end of last year. He could possibly make the team in camp, or will most likely be the first call-up(other than 4th liners) from the AHL, similar to how Guentzel was handled last year. ZAR isn’t likely to have the similar impact that Guentzel did, but should be one of the better Penguin forward prospects in a long time. With the Penguins history with injuries, it’s only a matter of time before he’s wearing a Pittsburgh Penguin jersey.

Too Early Expectations:

The Penguins lost quite a lot to replace this summer, but also did a fine job replacing them in a fiscally impressive way. The biggest loss will be the Penguins franchise net minder, Marc-Andre Fleury. His loss will not be measured by the games he’s played, or by the new guy in net, but instead the level of joy he brought to the team. Whenever you hear about how great someone is from every single person he’s met, you have to believe it. I don’t think there’s a single person that dislikes Fleury as a person. He’s been the heart and soul of this team, and his absence will definitely be felt in the room. Luckily for the Pens, they already have the next franchise net minder in place.

That man of course is back-to-back Stanley Cup winning rookie goalie: Matt Murray. His 22 Stanley Cup Playoff wins as a rookie will be a very tough feat to be broken any time soon. He also went 32-10-4 last year, improving is career record to 41-12-5 with a .925 sv% and 2.32 GAA. If he can somehow improve those numbers, the Pens may just have themselves the franchise’s first ever Vezina winner. Tom Barrasso finished 2nd in ‘93, and 3rd in ‘98, however. He’s the man between the pipes for good now, and the goalie position has never been the backbone of this franchise. It’d be a new look, and adding that element to the Crosby/Malkin era could just be why this team could be destined for even more greatness.

The forward group is still going to be an elite group with Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel still in their primes. There also looks to be more impactful rookies in Pittsburgh as well. Although Guentzel isn’t considered a rookie, this will be his first full season in the NHL, so he’s basically a rookie. There is also Daniel Sprong on the cusp who looks to be a really good sniper. Other than Malkin, Crosby, and Staal from 2004-06, when was the last time the Penguins had a high draft pick at forward come in and make an impact? The Penguins had the most goals last year by a total of 15 at the end of the year. With the influx of young talent, and if GMJR can find a 3rd line center, there’s reasons to believe the Pens can even improve on that number.

There’s good news when it comes to the defense. The best news is that Kris Letang is rumored to be ready for this season by training camp. There have been a lot of workout videos on social media involving him, and he doesn’t appear to be holding back on any of them, so that’s a good sign. Pittsburgh also brought in Matt Hunwick on a very reasonable deal. Justin Schultz has also kept trending up since the day he got traded to Pittsburgh, and he was brought back for 3 more years. Dumoulin was also resigned for 6 years at a fair rate. With Maatta’s long-term deal, the Penguins have their top-4 locked up for a long time, add in Matt Hunwick and Ian Cole and you form a very solid bottom pair. The only bad news was losing Daley. He’s valuable, but was declining and not worth it for Pittsburgh to pay the money Detroit did to sign him. He was a great addition, and I’m glad he was here to celebrate two Stanley Cups, but I think the team will be fine without his talents. Pouliot and Ruhwedel should round out a decent #7 and 8 d-men.

Which brings me to the most valid points why the Penguins can #3PEAT. They just won back-to-back Cups, which has been proven to be extremely difficult to do. They managed to do that with a rookie goaltender(TWICE!) and minus one of the best defenseman in the entire league for half the regular season and entire playoffs. The rest of the Eastern Conference either stayed relatively the same, or at least lost something of value for nothing due to the Expansion Draft. This team is built like a Championship team, and with Mike Sullivan getting the troops ready to play, he’s not going to settle for any off-nights. The Pens look to be a heavy favorite again for Lord Stanley’s Mug.

The Penguins, and the rest of the Metropolitan Division, should be just as impressive next year despite the loss of significant players from each team in the top half of the division. It’d be hard to come true two years in a row, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3 or more 50 win teams coming out of the Metro again next year. I guess we will just have to wait and see.


Keep up with the rest of the Division:

Chinese, Greek, and Latin, part 2

Aug. 16th, 2017 01:45 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

[This is a guest post by Richard Lynn.  It is all the more appreciated, since he had written it as a comment to "Chinese, Greek, and Latin" (8/8/17) a day or two ago, but when he pressed the "submit" button, his comment evaporated.  So he had to write the whole thing all over again.  I am grateful to Dick for his willingness to do so and think that the stimulating results are worth the effort he put into this post.]

James Zainaldin’s remarks concerning the Lunyu, Mencius, Mozi, Zhuangzi, and the Dao de jing, his frustration by the limits of grammatical or lexical analysis, that is, the relative lack of grammatical and lexical explicitness compared to Greek and Latin texts, is a reasonable conclusion — besides that, Greek and Latin, Sanskrit too, all are written with phonetic scripts — easy stuff! But such observations are a good place to start a discussion of the role of commentaries and philological approaches to reading and translating Literary/Classical Chinese texts, Literary Sinitic (LS). Nathan Vedal’s remarks are also spot on: “LS is really an umbrella term for a set of languages. The modes of expression in various genres and fields differ to such a high degree that I sometimes feel as though I'm learning a new language when I begin work on a new topic.”

This last jogged my memory, a conversation with Achilles Fang 方志彤 many years ago, when he made three remarks that seem pertinent to this discussion (I paraphrase):

(1) Studying premodern Chinese letters is equivalent to learning the entire corpus of ancient Greek and Latin literature, including medieval Latin texts, plus all the early European vernaculars, from the earliest written versions up through the modern languages.

(2) When dealing with any Chinese text, one should gather every known version of it so, by comparing differences in wording, one might more accurately punctuate the version used for study and translation, bridge ellipses, and better establish contexts.

(3) If commentaries for texts existed, it would be unwise not to take full advantage of them, whatever their biases and limitations, for, if nothing else, interlinear commentaries can help with delimiting syntactic units.

As I said, this was a long time ago, but I think I remember the essentials rightly.

Now, as for the value of commentaries in interpreting texts, this varies enormously, and when multiple commentaries exist, say, for the Zhouyi (Classic of Changes), one is faced with the problem of deciding which one to trust, which one is “right,” etc. One way is to cherry pick from several or more of them:  Richard Wilhelm’s Classic of Changes was done this way, whereas my The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi is restricted to one commentator; I attempted to integrate original text and commentary so that each defined and clarified the other. I did the same with my Wang Bi version of the Daode jing, and I am now (2/3 complete more or less) engaged in a similar project, the Guo Xiang version of the Zhuangzi. This is not to say that Guo Xiang is “right”—for with such early texts they are often so opaque in places that the meaning can be seen to differ with each different commentary.

Peipei Qiu (Vassar) is doing a Zhuangzi with the commenary of the Song era Neo-Confucian Lin Xiyi, so her translation will be very different from mine — as it should be. Text and commentary are inseparable, so it would be nonsense to tack on a new translation of a commentary to an earlier translation of the original text (benwen 本文), as one particularly inept reviewer of my Dao de jing book thought I should have done.

The Lunyu, Mencius, Mozi, Zhuangzi, and Dao de jing are all pre-Han and thus full of eccentric, irregular, erratic syntactic forms and peculiar terminology. With the Han era, syntax and vocabulary become far more regular, which, while helping considerably in some ways, presents problems in others, for the great majority of texts from the Han through the Qing, two millennia later, do not have attached commentaries, are not even punctuated, and when they do have commentaries these often are usually factual and not interpretive.  This is especially true for poetry, where, for example with Du Fu, commentaries identify people, places, and allusions, but provide no help in explaining what particular lines mean.

Of course, in most recent times many such texts now exist in modern annotated editions with full punctuation, the annotations including baihua (modern Chinese) paraphrase (dayi 大意) interpretations — but beware, a paraphrase is not a translation! And this brings us to another problem:  the continuity between LS and modern Chinese certainly seems much closer than, say, between Latin and Italian, ancient Greek and what one reads in an Athenian newspaper. I have always (as a non-native speaker of Chinese) found my ability in putonghua, such as it is, to be a great help in intuiting meaning in LS texts, for there often is much bai in old wen texts (and wen in modern bai texts, by the way). But as a non-native Chinese I have little trust in such intuitions, so tend to verify (or abandon) them after what a native speaker might regard as excessive philological investigation. I know I just need more help.

So then an enormous battery of Sinological sources is brought to play: dictionaries, leishu [VHM:  encyclopedias; premodern reference books with material taken from various sources and arranged according to subjects / categories], background searches through local histories (difang zhi), global searches for comparable contexts in such resources as the electronic / digital Siku quanshu [VHM:  Complete Library in Four Treasuries], Christian Wittern’s 漢リポ Kanseki Repository, http://hanji.sinica.edu.tw/, etc., etc. , as well as all the guidance provided by modern Chinese scholarship and pre-modern and modern Japanese Sinology (Kangaku 漢學) (I wish I knew Korean!).

I have been at this stuff for more than 50 years now, so experience and ever wider familiarity with texts seems finally to be paying off. Göran Malmqvist (b. 1924) once told me about a visit he made to his teacher Bernhard Karlgren (1889-1978) in hospital a few weeks before Karlgren passed away.  Karlgren was propped up in bed reading the Zuozhuan, surrounded by other books. He said to Malmquist, “You know, Göran, after some 70 years I am finally getting the hang of these things!” I can hardly wait.

Question thread #55

Aug. 15th, 2017 11:58 pm
pauamma: Cartooney crab holding drink (Default)
[personal profile] pauamma posting in [site community profile] dw_dev
It's time for another question thread!

The rules:

- You may ask any dev-related question you have in a comment. (It doesn't even need to be about Dreamwidth, although if it involves a language/library/framework/database Dreamwidth doesn't use, you will probably get answers pointing that out and suggesting a better place to ask.)
- You may also answer any question, using the guidelines given in To Answer, Or Not To Answer and in this comment thread.


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