The Future of The Future – Star Trek: Phase 4

The Star Trek franchise is near and dear to my heart. In the early 90’s, I fancied myself a super-fan. I voraciously consumed episodes of the television series, I repeatedly watched the films, I collected all sorts of Trek-themed stuff (but especially action figures) and even went to a Star Trek convention with my dad (not in costume, thankfully). If you think about it, Star Trek had a “cinematic universe” going before Marvel ever fired up their money-making engine. Really, the mid 80’s to mid 90’s was the franchise’s heyday. But the studio heads overplayed their hand, as often happens, and burned out their fanbase with over-saturation and diminished quality. By the time Star Trek: Enterprise reached TV screens, many of even the most ardent fans rejected it. And then, the parent company that owned Trek split into two separate entities and each took part of the franchise with them. Now the rights to Star Trek films are owned by one corporation and the rights to Star Trek television series are owned by a different corporation. And this legal knot set the stage for the recent developments in the franchise and complicated things for the fans who remember the good old days. The franchise turned 50 last year, so what does the future look like anyway?


FILMS

Once the rights to Trek were split up between two parent companies, it was probably a good idea to let the franchise rest a bit before figuring out what to do with it. Among the fans, it was widely believe that Star Trek really belonged on television. That’s where it had all started, that where you could do the kind of sci-fi/social commentary that creator Gene Roddenberry had held so dear. But with the failure of Enterprise still hanging in the air, CBS Television was reluctant to invest in a risk like that. Viacom/Paramount (who owns the movie rights) was also risk-averse, but then JJ Abrams showed up with an interest in re-booting the Trek universe. And when JJ Abrams shows interest, you back up the money truck. So Abrams made three films: two very good ones with a mediocre (to be kind) film in the middle.

I, for one, like a lot about these films. The first film was a great introduction to a very young Kirk, something we had never seen before in Star Trek canon. It spun some interesting techobabble about why these stories are happening and how they relate to the original universe of films and TV. It brought back Leonard Nimoy!

Abrams returned to direct the sequel, which went off the rails a bit. For one thing, they insisted on trying to misdirect the audience about the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain character, which didn’t go over well when the truth was revealed. Even Abrams admitted that it was a mistake to go that route. Furthermore, they stooped to a gratuitous underwear scene for a female character, they parodied a touchstone moment from the original film series and used “magic” technology to tie up loose ends. It had some cool moments and the plot was fine at the core, but they just tried to get too cute with it or something.

A third film was planned, but Abrams would not direct (he was called away to reboot another sci-fi franchise). Star Trek Beyond, under the direction of Justin Lin, was far from perfect, but it did much better at using the cast well and crafting a plot that felt much more like an episode of the original series. Sadly, the film under-performed at the box office and threw the whole future of the film series up in the air.

Now, Star Trek fans are notoriously hard to please. The common complaint with these movies was that they were too action oriented and not enough like the TV series, which tackled philosophical questions and used sci-fi stories to comment on current cultural and political ideas. War, racism, humanity itself, etc. These were all examined in interesting ways on TV screens through the lens of a diverse crew of space explorers. What fans often forget is that there’s always been a fundamental difference between the TV series and the film series. Star Trek films have always been bigger, more action-oriented affairs with some ideology thrown in too. In fact, the films that almost everyone considers the best are very action heavy (Wrath of Khan and First Contact) with one fan favorite being a comedic curveball (The Voyage Home). The new films do a good job capturing the spirit of the original MOVIES and don’t worry too much about trying to be a TV show on the big screen. Plus, the recasting of iconic characters is mostly impossible, but they did a great job finding young actors to reprise these roles. The new movies are good.

Still, the crabby fans and the lower financial returns leave the film series in a state of limbo today. A fourth film has been talked about and an reappearance of Chris Hemsworth has been teased, but nothing is certain. The longer they wait, the harder it will be to get this film off the ground. Hemsworth is busy with Marvel movies and Zoe Saldana (who is great as Uhura) is tied up with Marvel AND with the planned series of Avatar sequels (blah). This are only going to get more complicated. If they’re going to continue this series, they need to get their act together.

I thought Star Trek Beyond was great and I really want to see another film with this crew. But I fear that the next step the studio will take to blow it up and try something new again. In the shadow of the new Star Wars universe movies and the continuing Marvel juggernaut, they can’t let a franchise like this lie fallow for too long, can they?


“TELEVISION”

As the film franchise sputtered a bit, the fans grew more and more adamant: “We want Star Trek on TV! That’s where it belongs!” Soon, there were rumblings that CBS was actually putting a new series together called Star Trek: Discovery that would premiere in time for the 50th anniversary in the fall of 2016! They even dropped a teaser trailer in July 2016!

Then the wild rollercoaster ride began.

There was joy and fear from the fans as they wondered what form this new show would take and who would run it. CBS said it would be an online-only show. Netflix? No, a proprietary CBS service no one had heard of (in the US, Netflix abroad). Just as fans struggled with the implications of that, it was announced that the celebrated Bryan Fuller would run the show! Great news! Then the premiere was pushed to January ’17 and then Fuller quit and the premiere was delayed yet again. It was becoming increasingly clear that this production was very, very troubled.

Finally, just last month, the first real trailer emerged:

 

So we’re finally seeing this new vision of the future of the franchise. It’s all very, very cryptic to begin with, but a few things are pretty clear:

  • There’s a female lead and more female representation overall, which is a good thing.
  • The cast is more diverse, which is a good thing and has always been part of the fabric of Roddenberry’s vision.
  • Star Wars and the Abrams-verse movies are being heavily borrowed from for the design and look of the show.

So depending on how you feel about those 3 things, your opinion on the trailer will vary. I think it looks very promising. I think what I’m most excited about for the show is the fact that it will be a “peak TV” version of the Trek universe. We’ll get a single storyline for the season, which will allow for some world-building and some good drama and character development.  The creators have already dropped a few clues about those things. Plus, they’ve said that the 15 episodes will be split into 2 mini-seasons as some prestige shows have done lately. I like it. As rocky as the production has been, I’m cautiously optimistic and will be excited to see the show.

The future of the franchise is still being written and this show will play a very large role in what that future looks like. The film franchise may well depend on how this show is received. Even though the two prongs of the franchise are split right now, you can bet the producers are Paramount will gauge the fan response to the show and project the value of continuing the film series based on that data. Only one thing is certain: the next year will be a very interesting time for the Star Trek franchise as a whole.


The first episode of Star Trek: Discovery is set to premiere on CBS and CBS All Access (in the US) on September 24, 2017.

Stray Observations: Father’s Day Weekend

This past weekend was the last official weekend of Spring. It was also Father’s Day weekend and full of fun activities. Here are some stray observations on the happenings.

Friday

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  • My son Elliott was invited to two birthday parties on the same day. One was in the afternoon while I was at work, so my wife accompanied him to that one. The other was an evening affair at Memory Lanes bowling alley. I was his chaperone for that one and brought along my younger son too. It was a fun and crazy time watching a bunch of 1st graders bowling and being silly together. I also spent much of the evening bargaining
  • I also spent much of the evening explaining to my boys that they shouldn’t waste money on a stuffed animal crane game in the arcade because no one ever wins on those. A girl then proceeded to pull an animal out on her first try. Of course.

Saturday

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  • One thing I wanted to do on Father’s Day weekend was venture down to St. Anthony Main for the Stone Arch Bridge Festival. They had art vendors, a car show, food vendors and some free concerts. My reason for going to was to see the band DENNY perform. I’m friends with one of the guys in the band and they are definitely an up-and-coming Minneapolis band. They put on a great show on a 95 degree day at high noon. Still worth it.
  • I recently purchased a large, inflatable pool for our backyard. Our boys have long outgrown the plastic kiddie pool and I knew the hot weather was fast approaching. So far, they’ve really loved using it. When we got home from the festival, we were all overheated and decided we would all 4 take a dip in the pool. It was a splashy good time. 2016-06-09

Sunday

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  • It was a great morning at Hiawatha Church for our whole family, as usual. I’m thankful every week for this community and for the God that brings us together.
  • After church, we went out to lunch at one of my favorite local burger places – The Blue Door in Longfellow. A “Baked and Loaded Blucy” along with a “Shenanigans Summer Ale” from Indeed paired extremely well.
  • The boys (and their mom) gave me some great books as father’s day presents, including a great book about a superhero dad that they illustrated themselves! They also gave me something extremely rare and valuable – a Sunday afternoon nap!
  • After my nap and some down time for the boys too, we packed some sandwiches and met up with my wife at her soccer game with HC United (our church’s co-ed team). It was swelteringly hot out and we didn’t last the entire 90 minutes, but we sure cheered on our squad and our favorite midfielder!
  • Once we were back home and the boys were in bed, I was ready for Game 7 of the NBA Finals! I’ve actually managed to watch most of every game in the series and I was extremely excited for the final showdown. And the game did not disappoint. Yeah, I was pulling for the Warriors, but the Cavs came up huge and LeBron in particular. I’m not a big LeBron guy, but I have to respect (respek?) him after the amazing series he had and the signature play that summed up his effort:

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  • Former Timberwolf Kevin Love is now a champion. He’s had a rough post season as he’s become the butt of jokes and memes calling him useless. In the end, his much-maligned defense came through as he guarded the MVP! Good job, Kevin Love.
  • And now Minnesota is on the top of the list of longsuffering sports markets! Hooray?
  • Since I was taking in the Finals, I time-shifted the big Game of Thrones episode and watched it later. What a great, great episode! That amazing tracking shot of Jon Snow was up there with the True Detective shot from a couple of years ago (though I think TD wins). The entire battle sequence was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Realistic medieval combat depicted in all its brutal realism.  itoglxx1q89xtdsf5oixoivbinv3bshqvhle6dpn
  • And finally, a very sad happening from the weekend: Anton Yelchin, the promising young actor well known for his portrayal of Pavel Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek movies, was tragically killed in a freak auto accident. His vibrancy and range of characters was quite incredible for an actor his age. With the 3rd Star Trek film due to be released next month, he was at another high point in his career making his sudden death is all the more tragic. anton-yelchin-net-worthPavel_Chekov_(alternate_reality)

Introducing Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope

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The Kids

My wife and I sat down to watch the first Star Wars film with our boys on a Saturday morning. We had already decided that we will be watching the films in the morning or afternoons – i.e. not right before bedtime. That was in the hopes of warding off any potential bad dreams related to the scarier elements of the films.

Neither of my boys is reading much yet, so I read the “A long time ago…” line and the entire opening crawl to them as they came up. Now, this opening crawl introduces the general state of affairs in this galaxy and talks about Princess Leia as it sets the scene for what’s to come. The boys really didn’t get any of this as I read it, so I summed it up for them as the ships appeared: the bad guys are chasing the princess. Done.

Now the boys knew C3PO and R2D2 pretty well already, so they latched on to those characters rather quickly. They were worried on their behalf as they tried to sneak around their ship and finally blasted out in an escape pod and landed in the desert. Their plight was clearly important to the boys the Jawas picked them up and eventually brought them to Luke.

Again, Luke Skywalker is a character that they were already familiar with, but they were a bit confused about meeting him here – in a desert farm with his Uncle and Aunt. Wasn’t he supposed to be the hero? It struck me that this character arc of Luke’s in Episode IV is pretty great and something that young people identify with on a fairly basic level. He has a boring life and wants to go to space. Pure and simple.

The Sandpeople show up. Oh, the Sandpeople. Still as scary as ever when they attack Luke! Yowza! Then Kenobi appears and Luke is handed a lightsaber. Now the boys are all in on Luke and the Jedi mythology. They really like Kenobi too, especially when they see his power on display in the Mos Eisley with the stormtroopers and in the cantina defending Luke.

The scene when Luke finds his farm burned and his Aunt and Uncle’s skeletons in the wreckage, the boys are shocked. They couldn’t quite make out the skeletal remains in the quick shot of them, which is for the best probably. Again, many questions. Who did that? Why? Why do they want the droids?

When Han Solo shows up, I tell the boys he’s a smuggler. This is a term that they’re somewhat familiar with from reading some Hardy Boys books with me. They know smugglers are “bad guys”, so they ask if Han is a bad guy and I tell them that he kind of is, yeah.  I tell them that he works with bad guys and all he cares about is money. All true at this point in the story.

As all that Tatooine stuff is going on, we visit Leia and Vader on the Death Star and see that creepy interrogation scene and Alderaan destroyed. The boys are really starting to see how evil Vader, Tarkin and the Empire are. When Vader force-chokes an Empire general at the strategy table, they are very confused. “Why would Darth Vader attack a fellow bad-guy?”, they ask. I explain that he’s such a bad guy that he will hurt anyone, even his own people, to get his way. This comes up again more profoundly in Episode V.

Anyway, as our heroes work to rescue the princess and escape the Death Star in Act II, the boys are thrilled with the firefights and the scary garbage compactor monster that attacks Luke.

Then the fight scene between Kenobi and Vader comes on. It’s our first lightsaber battle scene in the movies. The boys have a soft grasp on the fact that Vader used to be a “good guy” and that Kenobi was his teacher, so they feel a bit of that weight during the fight. Then when Kenobi is struck down – they are totally shocked. This is the big twist of the film and they can hardly believe that Vader won that fight. They’re also (rightly) confused about the fact that Kenobi’s body disappears and Luke hear’s his voice in his head. I tell them that it’s kind of like Luke is remembering Kenobi and the force is helping him.

From the Death Star escape, we move to Act III and the rebel attack. First Han and Chewie leave with their dough, which cements his status as a smuggler for the boys. Finally, it’s time for the big spaceship fight! The boys are loving it, but there are just too many rebel ships and pilots that they can’t keep track of who’s who and what’s going on. Every time a ship blows up, they ask if that was Luke’s ship. When I say “no”, they ask whose it was. Eventually, as you may know, it’s just Luke and Wedge left on the X-Wing attack and Wedge has to bail out of the trench.  Vader puts Luke in his sights and seemingly destroys R2D2. Tragedy for the boys. They implore me to tell them if R2 is going to be alright. Then Luke hears Kenobi in his head again and uses the Force to hit his target as the Millenium Falcon blows Vader out of the trench. Han and Chewie are back! They aren’t pseudo-bad-guys after all! Then as Luke lands as a hero, we see R2D2 as a charred husk and it’s unclear if he’s fixable. Again, the boys don’t care about much else at this point but R2’s recovery.

Thankfully, we go right to the medal ceremony scene and see an alive and polished R2! Hooray!

And that’s the end. The boys loved it. They had lots of questions throughout. Many of their questions were about who’s who of the different scenes. They had a lot of trouble remembering if the Rebels were good guys or bad guys and who the Empire was, but that will come as they see more.  They loved the ships and the weapons, mostly because they had seen them before as toys. As the credits rolled, they were eager to watch the next film!

My Re-Watch

This was my first time seeing the movie in probably 10 years. A few stray observations I made:

I was much more attuned to the political backstory going on, especially because those threads were explored (too much) in the Prequel trilogy. A seemingly throw-away line from Grand Moff Tarkin, “The Emperor has dissolved the Senate permanently” carries some weight for what’s going on in this galaxy.

I gained a lot of appreciate for the structure of the story of this film. It’s such a classic adventure story. A little setup and a central conflict, a young hero is introduced and quickly finds himself with an invitation to adventure, he saves the princess, ascends to the hero role more fully and saves the entire galaxy. It has a clear beginning (Tatooine), middle (Death Star) and end (Final Battle).

One thing I’ve read as an adult that stood out to me here is the dearth of female characters in the film. Really, the only ones are Leia and Aunt Beru (who is quickly killed).

So in my mind, it’s still an amazing film and is the perfect launching pad for the franchise as a whole!

Next up… things get a lot tougher for our ragtag band of heroes in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back!

New Beck!

Beck is back! After winning the big Grammy (and topping my EOTY Music list), Beck has been a bit quiet. But now it’s clear that he never stops working. He’s released “Dreams”, which might signal a new LP on the way as well. “Dreams” is an amazingly good song and shows, yet again, that Beck is an incredibly talented musician.

What do you think of the new song?

Currently Reading: 6/2/15

Just Finished:

Quite good, like an irreverent and snarky science and history textbook.

Just Starting:

On my list for awhile. Sounds like a compelling story. And soon to be turned into a motion picture.

What are you reading these days?

The Great Trailer Deluge

Over the last few days Hollywood has unleashed trailers for some of the most anticipated movies of the next year or so. It’s almost unbelievable how many have been released in just the last few days. I’m under the assumption that the release of the new Star Wars trailer prompted the other studios to pull their levers and try to steal some headlines.

The trailer business is a segment all it’s own. The internet hype machine has made these releases almost as anticipated as the films themselves. Indeed some studios now have teaser trailers for their teaser trailers for their actual trailers for their movies. It’s all about building hype for their movie and then fanning the flames all the way until the release date. So let’s look at how the creative teams behind these movies are choosing to build buzz for their films.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

So clearly this is the cream of the crop. I posted about this the day it came out because it was just that big of a deal. This trailer is near perfect in how it re-introduces audiences to the universe of Star Wars, stokes the nostalgia fire in the myriad of established fans and distances itself from the shortcomings of the prequel trilogy. For many, that last shot of Han and Chewie is the lasting impression, but for me it’s the Star Destroyer wreckage that really got me. This movie will be amazing.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

DC is playing catch-up now that Marvel is years into their Cinematic Universe. So they’re diving right into team-ups by making the sequel to Man of Steel include Batman. Their films are decidedly more dark in their approach and this teaser trailer shows off that aesthetic. Clearly there is a lot of controversy surrounding the Man of Steel after he revealed himself in the last film. This teaser keeps the story veiled, but hints at the central conflict between the two heroes. I’m definitely interested.

Fantastic Four

Okay, so they’re rebooting the Fantastic Four now too. This time around they opted for a much younger cast of up and comers. The central question for me is how will they portray Dr. Doom? Will he be the dreaded super-villain that is one of the most feared in all Marvel comics? Or will he be a throw-away baddie like many 1st movie antagonists? Either way, the casting of Miles Teller alone has me intrigued and I’ll give it a shot.

Jurassic World

First of all, that YouTube cover image is hilariously photoshopped! Anyway, more poking at my nostalgia zone. The makers of this film also really, really want us to remember the greatness of the original Jurassic Park. They’ve got lots of dinos, lots of scares and even some kids in trouble. It looks like they’re trying to keep the big-bad dino secret for now, a strategy that works only some of the time. But Chris Pratt is a star and this movie looks super-fun.

And now some trailers that didn’t come out in the last few days, but are worth a look.

Ant-Man

Ant-Man has had some trouble getting here. Edgar Wright was originally picked to direct and was well into the work when he was let go and a new director was hired. I’d be MUCH higher on this one if Wright were still on board (he’s a genius), but it still looks pretty great. The snarkiness of Guardians of the Galaxy will no doubt be there with comedy actor Paul Rudd in the main role.

Terminator: Genisys

Early T:G trailers showed off Arnold’s return and some interesting twisting of the classic Terminator mythology, but kept plenty of things hidden. This latest trailer pulls the curtain back more and reveals some startling twists regarding the newest John Connor. This looks like a truly alt-universe re-boot now like JJ Abrams Star Trek films. Jacked up references to established storylines all over the place. Could work, could flop. I’m not a huge Terminator fan after the first two films in the series, so I’m reticent on this one.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Okay, wow. Every teaser and trailer for this film has been completely insane. I’m not even sure this movie exists in reality, but apparently it does. I am extremely interested to see this spectacle and try to figure out how they made it. It looks like nothing I’ve seen before.

Got any other cool trailers for big movies coming up this year?

Our Kevin

I feel old pretty often these days. Sometimes I dwell on a vivid memory I have and then realize that that memory is from 20 years ago. For someone scratching their mid-30’s right now, that makes me feel old. And I felt it last week when I was having a conversation about how I felt when the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted a high school kid named Kevin Garnett in 1995. I was almost 14 at the time and that was the moment that I embraced the Timberwolves as my favorite Minnesota sports team. Up to that point I had been a Twins fan to the core (mostly due to the fact that the Twins had won 2 World Series in the last 8 years). However, the Twins had regressed since the ’91 series and the Vikings weren’t interesting yet. When Garnett was drafted, the buzz around the team really started building. Garnett was the player with the high ceiling who was going to push this team into the playoffs someday. It was just a matter of when.

Kevin Garnett came into the league raw. He was a tall, skinny kid with lots of potential but not much experience. In the early days he started slowly, averaging 10-18 points per game and 6-10 rebounds. But his competitiveness was obvious from the get go. This guy had the drive to win and the perseverance to work for it. The year after Kevin was drafted, the Wolves drafted who they hoped would become his long-term running mate: point guard Stephon Marbury. Together these two young stars-in-the-making made headlines around the NBA and the new dynamic duo who might take over the league when Jordan and the Bulls faded out. This was during the era of “NBA Inside Stuff” on NBC Saturday mornings and I remember watching all sorts of highlights from these two fun, young players! The two played together for 2 full seasons and made the playoffs both years before Marbury began griping. He wanted to lead the team and make more money than Garnett. The Wolves’ plan had backfired and they traded Marbury during his 3rd year.

Garnett continued toiling away, willing the Wolves into a low playoff seed each season and losing in the first round to more well-rounded teams. Garnett signed a massive contract with the team in 1998 and it looked like he would finish his career as a Timberwolf.

Somewhere in the early 2000’s, the fans started getting restless. Seven straight seasons the Wolves had made the playoffs and seven straight seasons they had lost in the first round. Following a 4-2 loss to the Lakers in 2003, Wolves management finally decided they needed to bring in some star power to run with KG. Their internal building schemes hadn’t worked and they needed to try something else. They went out and found two players who would change everything: Sam Cassell and Latrell Spreewell.

Armed with these two talented, but flawed players, the Wolves FINALLY won a playoff series in 2004 – beating the Nuggets in round 1. In the next round, they ran up against a very talented Kings team and battled them to a game 7. I remember watching games in this series at a bar on Grand Avenue eating potato skins with friends. It was amazing that the Wolves were actually good. Garnett was the league MVP. Spreewell was the salty sharpshooter and Cassell was the weird and effective slasher and distributor. That series was heart-poundingly good and the Wolves won game 7 by 3 points. It was on to the Western Conference Finals.

In the WCF, the Wolves met another re-tooled squad: the hated LA Lakers. The Lakers, after winning 3 titles in the early 2000’s, had decided to add more veterans and picked up Gary Payton and Karl Malone, two almost aging players in search of titles on their way out of the league. Garnett was primed for the series and averaged 23.7 points and 13 rebounds, but Spreewell and Cassell looked like they’d given all they had in the Kings series and had nothing left. Cassell’s legs were giving out and that ineffectiveness cost the Wolves dearly. They lost the series in 6 games.

This was the pinnacle. The run was amazing. It seemed like Garnett finally had his supporting cast the way it was supposed to be. This was the time to push for the title. But it was not to be. In the offseason, Spreewell went a bit crazy talking about needing more money to “feed his family”. Cassell wasn’t happy and backup PG Troy Hudson wasn’t either. The Wolves made the decision mid-season to fire beloved coach Flip Saunders who had presided over the recent success.

Soon, the familiar pro-sports trope emerged: the Wolves needed to trade Kevin Garnett now or risk losing him in free agency and getting nothing in return. In short, the window was closed and it was time to his the “reset” button on the team. Team GM Kevin McHale made the decision to trade Kevin to a team that he himself had history with: the Boston Celtics. The Wolves got a boatload of players in the deal, but the centerpiece was a promising young player named Al Jefferson.

The Celtics were in “win now” mode with superstar Paul Pierce in his prime. Beside acquiring Garnett, they went out and got sharpshooter Ray Allen. And guess what? They won the NBA Finals. Garnett, Pierce and Allen each won their first NBA ring. Amazing.

Meanwhile, the Wolves began probably the most painful stretch in franchise history. Jefferson didn’t work out. He was eventually traded. McHale was fired and replaced with the amazingly inept David Kahn. Kahn’s blunders were historic as he wasted high draft picks on bad players like Johnny Flynn and missed out on drafting Steph Curry. However, he did manage to get a hot Spanish point guard named Ricky Rubio to Minneapolis. We drafted Kevin Love and enjoyed his immense talent, but he eventually soured on the organization and fought it way out. That’s when things turned around.

It was none other than Flip Saunders, the once fired coach, who returned to the franchise as the GM and flipped Kevin Love to the LeBron-led Cavs for the #1 pick in the 2014 draft: Andrew Wiggins. Flip started building from the ground up with high upside players like Wiggins, Zach Lavine and others. It was time to hit “reset” one more time, but with more vision this time around. And that’s where Kevin Garnett re-enters the story.

Last week, Flip Saunders talked Garnett into allowing a trade to bring him back to Minnesota. Garnett had left Boston and played the last couple of seasons in Brooklyn, but there was no connection or future there. Now, he’s the veteran leader this team desperately needed for their young talent to learn from. He’s the no-nonsense competitor that will elevate the team, not by his MVP talent level, but by his sheer competitiveness and drive to excel.

On the night he first returned to the court as a member  of the Wolves, the Target Center sold out. The crowd was in a frenzy. Video tributes were played, old friends were highlighted and Kevin stood in awe of the reception. He quickly realized that this community never stopped respecting him.

And why should we have? Kevin gave it his all here in his first stint. He never quit on the team, ever. And when he won with the Celtics, he even gave a shout out to his people back in ‘Sota! Are you kidding me?

And after seeing the outpouring of love and support for his return last week, Garnett personally bought 1000 tickets to a home game this week and gave them all away to fans as a thank you.

There is no one like Kevin Garnett. And I for one am overjoyed that he’s back with the Timberwolves.

Top Albums of 2014 – Part 2

EOTY albums 2

And here are my top ten favorite albums of 2014!


 

10 – St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Annie Clark has finally ascended to the top of the world. This album is her craziest and probably best yet. Awesome arrangements, demented lyrics and beautiful vocal work.

9 – Waterdeep – Waterdeep

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I’ve been following this band for 16 years now. This year they put together a Kickstarter campaign to produce this double album – half Don songs and half Lori songs. It’s a sprawling work that’s clearly been a labor of love. They’re making the songs just how they want them and it’s a joy to hear.

 

8 – TV on the Radio – Seeds

TVOTR has been off the grid for awhile, but they stormed back with “Seeds” this year. It’s a great collection of classic TVOTR sounds. After a few listens, it’s not quite as good as “Dear Science”, but not many things are.

7 – Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

Jenny Lewis has been involved in a lot of awesome projects over the years. Here she’s all on her own and sounds confident in herself to pull it off. And her confidence has paid off with a very, very good album.

6 – Phantogram – Voices

Phantogram only has two members, but their sound is big and complex. There are some legitimately awesome songs on this record and I found myself listening to it a lot during walks.

5 – The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream

This band has been around for a few years now, but this album may eventually be regarded as their master work. It’s a sprawling and lush collection of melancholy tunes that unfold slowly and pull the listener in.

4 – Damien Rice – My Favorite Faded Fantasy

Where has Damien Rice been the last 8 years? Who knows. What I do know is that he hasn’t lost a step. With more songs about broken hearts, unrequited love, self-doubt, etc, Rice has grown older but still wrestles with the same stuff. I hope it’s not 8 more years before we hear from him again.

3 – Spoon – They Want My Soul

Man, Spoon really knows how to make music. They just hit this one out of the park. They have a signature sound, but I feel like they jacked around with it a bit more on this album than on their last couple. “Inside Out” is one of my favorite songs of the year.

2 – Jeremy Messersmith – Heart Murmurs

Local guy makes good! Messersmith put together this awesome album of songs that many are calling “new classics”. With every listen a new turn of phrase will catch my year and a new chord progression will tap my foot. We played “Tourniquet” at our church this year and had a ball learning it. Great job, Jeremy!

1 – Beck – Morning Phase

My favorite Beck album is “Sea Change”. I love the Nick Drake-esque nature of the stripped down acoustic format. Sure, Beck is great at ramshackle rock, but his grasp of the folk style is underrated. So when he returned to this style for “Morning Phase” I was all in. This is an awesome album and I’ve probably played it more than any other complete album this year.


 

Again, am I missing something from my list that you think should be there? Let me know in the comments. I love giving new music a chance!

2015 is already shaping up to be a great year for music with a front-loaded release calendar featuring the likes of The Decemberists and even Modest Mouse! I can’t wait!