Monday, December 20, 2010

First NHL hockey game ever: and yes, I am Canadian

It took a bunch of Germans to get Andrew and I out to our first NHL hockey last Thursday night (December 16th). It's the first hockey game I've been to in a very, very long time (so long that I have no idea when, and frankly if, I've ever attended a game). We sat way up in the nosebleeds. So far into the nosebleeds that we were actually in the last row of all of Rexall Place. Yeah. But you know what? We could see everything up there. And it's not like I needed to be close enough to smell the sweat or hear the teams cussing at each other (assuming they do, I have no idea). I actually, had a great time. I always assumed that if I went to a hockey game in person and found myself as a part of the crowd I would get into it, and I definitely did.

Shot of centre ice as we waited for the game to begin.
Puck drop to start the game.
The biggest problem is that we (Andrew and I) don't really know the rules. I mean we know the basics. Shoot the puck in the opposite net, don't kill the opposing team while trying to prevent them from scoring on you, but I have no knowledge of the actual nitty gritty of what deserves a penalty and what doesn't. I can barely keep the rule for icing in my head, although I know it's similar to the rule for offside in soccer--which I also can't remember even though I played soccer all summer. I'm sure the people in front of us must have thought we were idiots as we tried to explain what we thought might be the rules to our companions. Oh well.

The lovely Andrew, and our companions for the game.
My ticket.
For our first NHL game ever, we weren't disappointed. First off, the Oilers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 6 to 3--a solid victory. I completely missed the second Oiler's goal because I was busy watching a player who had tripped (or been tripped?) soar across the ice. A fight broke out within the first 10 minutes of the first period. Friends of mine who were also at the game explained that the Oilers player involved in the fight (Stortini) is the team 'enforcer' and it's basically mandatory for him to throw off the gloves once game. And I found myself really wanting to see Taylor Hall score a goal. He didn't, but got 3 assists instead.

If I get the chance, I'll probably go again sometime. I enjoyed myself and the crowd atmosphere in Rexall, with everyone pulling for the Oilers--it's a lot of fun.



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Luminaria at the Devonian Gardens

This past Saturday night Andrew and I drove out to the Devonian Gardens (approximately 45 minutes from our apartment) to take in Luminaria, a special event held in the Kurimoto Japanese garden. I think I read somewhere that this event was first held in 2000 to celebrate the millennium, but I can't seem to find the page where I found this to confirm it. As can be seen from the pictures below, the paths of the garden are lined with paper lanterns, and visitors are offered hot apple cider to sip as they meander about trails. Fire pits were placed in various spots around the garden to allow visitors to warm themselves if necessary.

The nights was crisp (only around -10C, which by Edmonton standards is pretty good, plus I heard someone say last year that the temperature was in the neighbourhood of -35C) and the sky, which started out cloudy, cleared while we were at the garden. Although we were pleased to see the clouds dissipate, we found our view of the stars was somewhat limited as the pink-haze of the lights in Edmonton prohibited a really glorious night sky. We wandered around the garden for almost an hour before we both started to suffer from cold feet and fingers despite our boots and mitts.

This was a really lovely experience. We were both well bundled in preparation for the weather (as were many of the other people there), and the garden walk covered with snow and candles was gorgeous.



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vinyl Cafe Christmas: 2010

As I blogged last year, Andrew and I like to attend the Vinyl Cafe Christmas Concert with Stuart Mclean, which tours around Canada every year. We don't go to any other Christmas concerts throughout the season, so this is sort of our one chance to tap into the holiday spirit (aside from being bombarded by advertisements, and mall music--thankfully we're pretty much done with that for this year). The concert also isn't an overload of Christmas. The musical guests only preform 2 or 3 times each, and they don't necessarily sing Christmas tunes, and the 'Dave and Morely' stories (the main reason why I love listening to the Vinyl Cafe) aren't always on a holiday theme. It's a good time, and an afternoon well spent, I think.

So, what can I tell you about the show? I enjoyed it. I laughed heartily throughout. I wished it didn't have to end, but as all good things must, it did. First, I'll make a quick mention of the musical guests: Matt Anderson (brought back from last year due to popular demand), and Jackie Richardson. As noted last year, Matt has an extremely powerful voice. It fills a large auditorium like the Jubilee without difficulty, although I think this year he was a little toned down (for the better). He sang a gospel tune in the first act (thanks to my somewhat 'Swiss cheese' memory I can't recall if it was a Christmas song, or if it was a regular gospel song) but the second song was 'O Holy Night.' My one beef with Matt is that he walked onto stage in bare feet and tattered jeans--it just seemed a little unprofessional. I can't remember what he wore last year, but I would have been happier if his pants had been hemmed and there were shoes on his feet.

I looked around for information on Jackie Richardson, but was surprised to find that Google had little help for me (I could only find a few articles regarding specific events, and an unhelpful MySpace page). From the intro given to her during the show, she's well known in the jazz/blue/gospel scene, has sung back up for Ray Charles and opened for Tina Turner (I think...that Swiss cheese memory acting up again). She was good. Her voice was full, and rich, and low. I kept thinking of the line from Spaceballs: 'So she's a bass,' not to say she was a bass--my ear isn't good enough to pick out a singer range--but I would guess her to be a contralto. Her rendition of (You make me feel) Like a natural woman was powerful and she seems to be an expert at the singing/talking thing that some performers do during intro's to songs. Overall, she was great.

Now for Stuart. What is there to say about Stuart McLean? For anyone who's listened to the Vinyl Cafe you know he has a unique delivery style that if you tried to punctuate on a page as he speaks, would violate grammatical rules left, right, and centre (not that I'm a grammar guru...). Yet his dramatic pauses and stammers some how manage to captivate listeners. The Jubilee Auditorium was full on Sunday, December 5th, and despite the musical guests, people were there to see and hear Stuart. Three stories were read that afternoon, plus an extra special segment where he sped-told seven stories in eleven minutes (approximately). I won't tell you much about the stories, that would ruin the experience if you're a regular listener, and the new Christmas story should air during the last radio show before the 25th. Two of the stories were Christmas themed (one old, one new), and the third was a wonderful tale about Dave going to visit an old buddy in the hospital and well...getting into trouble (this Dave we're talking about).

The speed-telling section was a neat segment. As the first act closed Stuart announced that the show was a few minutes short, so he needed people to request stories for him to speed-tell. A bucket was placed in the lobby during intermission and audience members were allowed to make suggestions. As act two opened, Stuart came out with John Sheer (piano) and Denis Pendrith (bass). The deal was Stuart would pull out audience suggestions and the musicians would come up with something to play as accompaniment. Many of the stories asked for were my own favourites including, Dave Toilet Trains the Cat, and Home Repairs. When Stuart read out the request for Dave buys a coffin, John Sheer began to play 'Little Boxes' (a song I'm not familiar with, but it was a cheerful sounding tune). Stuart remarked he was expecting something more somber, at which point John switched the song to a minor key. Again Stuart quipped, that he meant mournful, not Slavic, something hopeful. What was played next? When you wish upon a star. *grin*