I was first introduced to the wonderful music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at a very young age, by way of the film Amadeus, starring Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham. Though years later, I found out that most of the film was fiction, it still gave a decent portrayal into the turbulent life of the child prodigy, and how his drinking and lifestyle led to an untimely death, thus leaving us all to wonder how much more music he could have written. No composer ever wrote such depth and such beauty, and even though he is not quite my all-time favorite (Tchaikovsky still holds that title), he is no doubt that greatest composer to ever live, hands-down. Because he celebrated his 256th birthday on Friday (personally, I don’t think he looks a day over 200), I decided to devote this first Musical Monday of 2012 to his honor.
Last week, I wrote about how a co-worker and I found two World War II uniforms buried in the back of a closet at the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, and how friend, historian, and actor Ed Mantell was helping me do some research to find out who exactly these belonged to. After a few days, we found out, and I am delighted to be able to write this for you all today. I had asked Ed how we would be able to identify these, and he said that the name of the soldier could usually be found inside the sleeve or cuff. A day or two earlier, I had looked there and seen some smudgy ink, dismissing it as being the name of the factory who made them, but when Ed told me that, I realized that must have been his name. I was disappointed that it was barely legible and would leave me guessing, but then, right there on the belt that was attached to the hanger of the longer uniform, was the name, stamped clear as day.
Even though the NHL season always seems like a long a grueling one (it is), I always find myself in amazement at how fast it actually all goes by. It is January 28th, and the proverbial first half of the season has come to an end with every NHL team skating into the All Star Break for a restful few days before the playoff chase officially begins. Who would have thought at this point, that the New York Rangers would be second in the entire league and in first place in the Eastern Conference? I can guarantee no one had it pegged as such. The highest aspirations I had for the team for the regular season were what they have been for the last few years: battling for a playoff spot the entire year, and going down to the last day.
Obviously, that could still be a possibility depending on which Rangers show up when the second half starts on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils, but for now, let us look back on a first half that has, overall, been a great one. It seems like a long time ago that the Rangers were literally traveling all over the world to play hockey games and having a bumpy start to the season. But from then until now, Ranger fans have watched a team gel and combine to form a potent force that finds ways to win. If you think about it, it is kind of amazing that the Rangers are where they are when you consider a few things. First, the defensive core has never been healthy for a long period of time. Whether it was Marc Staal starting late, or him coming back and Mike Sauer and Steve Eminger going out, the D-corps has not been at full strength.
This past week, I spent every day substitute teaching at the school where I taught the Civil War class, and coach hockey at (the next league starts in a little more than a month, which guarantees more funny stories being posted here). My first day ever at this new job actually occurred in the week prior, when I was called in on a Wednesday morning. Because of this, I have not really had much time to write here on my blog, because of the change in my schedule that leaves me drained of energy when I get home, until my body can completely adjust to the new routine. Substituting did have its positives, though, as I now got my first taste of what being a full-time teacher is really like. Before this, all I had done was teach one class here and there, or, when I went into the local high school to do some field work for college, it was mainly just sitting and observing, save for the occasional lesson I was allowed to teach. But here it was, five days of classes and dealing with many different students (most of which I had coached already), and I must say, it did get better as the days went along, though there were a few bumps in the road, as every substitute must face.
As we are currently in the process of re-renovating the historic house I work at in Perth Amboy, we decided to clean out one of the closets last week, and hanging in the back, completely out of sight, were two World War II uniforms, each one on a wooden hanger inscribed, “October 31, 1942″. Because I will be teaching a weekly class on this war starting in a few weeks, I wanted to learn more, so I took some pictures and posted them on Facebook, with an open request asking for any information, and hoping one of my history buddies would be able to tell me something. Within a few hours, I received some comments, until a friend sent me more information than I thought I would ever be able to find out about two simple uniforms.
Yesterday’s game between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers was the first meeting of the season between the two Eastern Conference powerhouses. For most of the season, these two clubs have just dominated the opposition and have vaulted themselves to the top of the league standings. It is no surprise that the Bruins are where they are, after having won a Stanley Cup this past spring and not having much of a turnover. The Rangers, however, have been a surprise for many who expected they would be battling for the sixth, seventh, or eighth spots in the East. Yes, you can count me as one of the surprised. When Marian Gaborik scored in overtime yesterday with 3.6 seconds to go, I was at work in the break room and yelled. Of course, being that many people were at my job, they were all confused and a few were afraid I think. But now that my emotions have leveled off and I have gotten a chance to watch the highlights a few times, there are a few things that have stood out:
What has changed in the last few months? What has changed since Brendan Shanahan gloriously took over as the NHL’s disciplinarian, promising much stricter action? The only noticeable one has been that things have not gotten better or even stayed the same, they have gotten worse. Blindside hits and cheap-shots never seemed to be a problem until the last couple of seasons, prompting a change and an ushering in of the new era of safer hockey. Suspensions would be handed out like candy to children at a carnival, and because of it, dangerous hits would stop, and the offenders would gradually find themselves out of a job. Well, as most teams near the 50 game mark in this safe hockey haven, thanks to the tireless efforts of Shanahan and league officials, do you feel that the status quo has changed at all? When your favorite players skate near the boards, do you feel any safer watching them?
Since released in May, the director’s cut releases of both Gods and Generals and Gettysburg have garnered rave reviews, as the missing pieces of the enormous puzzles were finally put in place and made available to the general public. In many articles, we have read that sales figures for these two films have been good, but just how good, exactly? After browsing on Blu-Ray.Com, which has become a daily read for me, I just happened to scroll down the right side of the page to view the top-sellers for the United States, and lo and behold, there was the Limited Collector’s Set of both films that was released in July, sitting at #3 overall (with a total, worldwide sales rank of 23). This definitely came as a pleasant surprise, if not complete shock. This was no mirage or speculation, but actual statistics detailing the success of these two films. The LCS also currently sits at #1 on Blu-Ray.Com’s best bargains list, where you can now purchase the massive boxed set, loaded with extra goodies, for only $36.49
Mike Milbury, an in-studio analyst for NBC and their newly formed network NBC Sports, has long been a critic of the New York Rangers. For years, his slanted, biased pre-game, intermission, and post-game anti-Ranger tirades have polluted the airwaves and have come with such regularity, that normally, they do not even upset or surprise me. Coming out of the lockout, Milbury never ceased to amaze, as he tore into then-Rangers superstar winger Jaromir Jagr all season long for being soft or not having what it takes to be a leader, even in the midst of his franchise record-setting 54-goal, 123-point season. One would think that the bias shown in those years bordered on xenophobia, but thankfully, we have Don Cherry up in Canada for that. More recently, before last night, that is, during the pre-game show of the Winter Classic, when describing the Rangers and using their nickname “Blueshirts”, he just so happened to leave the “r” out of the word, causing him to call the team an expletive. Accidental? Probably. But a Freudian Slip? Most definitely.
Film enthusiasts and historians, the next few months will prove to be very exciting! For the first time ever, two of the best, most classic movies ever made will be heading to Blu-Ray. The first, All Quiet on the Western Front, hits shelves on February 14th (and will be in DigiBook Packaging). This film, best known as one of the first accurate depictions of what warfare is really all about, premiered in 1930, and shocked audiences with the graphic brutality of war, which was a far cry from the Hollywoodesque romanticism of war that had become a mainstay of theater at that point in time. It was so shocking that it was actually banned in Germany, though mainly for political reasons, and its unflattering portrayal of a losing German Army, the nation blamed for starting World War I, which was punished severely by the Treaty of Versailles in 1918. The second of these films is one that deals with the luxury of the most famous ship in history, the Titanic, and the subsequent disaster of its sinking, in one of the most accurate tellings of the story, based on the book by legendary author Walter Lord, titled, A Night to Remember. This film will be released a month later, on March 27.