• Ladies and gentlemen!

    I know I'm late to the party but I have been listening to some K-pop over the past few years. This is quite unusual for someone who usually listens to metal, gothic and rock music and occasionally to blues, folk and classical music. Trendy boy- or girl-groups have never been my cup of tea. You could chase me with music from One Generation or solo artists of former super groups like Justion Timberlake who is maybe the worst offender. How come I like Korean pop music?

    First of all, I'm a big fan of Korean cinema and have watched countless movies from that country in the past few years. I like Korean cinema because it's more emotional, gloomy and intense than what Hollywood has to offer these days. I like the country's most brutal films such as the explicit ''I Saw the Devil'' but also the more atmospheric works like the imaginative ''A Tale of Two Sisters''. I even appreciate the country's over-the-top comedy films like ''Quick'' but also epic dramas such as ''The Handmaiden''. One of my favorite contemporary actors is Choi Min-sik and I also like Kwak Do-won and Song Kang-ho to only name a few examples. Watching all these Korean movies made me discover Korean pop music that was either featured in some of these movies or indirectly related to them because many actors are also pop musicians.

    What I like about K-pop is its vivid, quirky and colorful style that works in danceable and catchy tunes but also in calm and emotive ballads. The way pop sounds merge with rhythm 'n' blues and hip hop but also occasional other influences such as folk sounds is creative, entertaining and at times still surprising. K-pop isn't as eclectic as J-pop but probably more consistent. There are several J-pop artist I adore because they have their very own style but there are also cringeworthy J-pop artists who seem to be walking stereotypes. K-pop doesn't have that many highs and lows and I'm not always in the mood for listening to this type of music but when I am, I enjoy it thoroughly.

    Today I want to present you a quite quirky and catchy female K-pop quartet called Sixbomb because this band has stirred up controversy one year ago with its two singles ''Before'' and ''After'', released in February and March 2017, respectively. The songs and videos show how the four girls decide to undergo plastic surgery. The first clip shows an excited quartet chosing its four individual treatments in a shiny facility. The second clip presents the quartet's new looks with a lot of joyous self-confidence. It's important to notice that it were the band members' own decisions to undergo plastic surgery. On the other side, one has to understand that the four band members made that decision hoping to get some attention and propulsing their careers. The former did actually happen while the latter hasn't happened yet. Sixbomb haven't released anything since these two singles one year ago. Let's also underline the fact that the group's record company agreed to pay for the plastic surgeries and its related treatments because it was obviously expecting to make some money in return.

    There have been quite a few discussions about Sixbomb's story. Those who criticize them harshly claim that the women already looked beautiful before, didn't need any kind of plastic surgery and encouraged women to pay for extensive plastic surgery instead of strengthening their self-confidence. Those who defend the band claim that the four women have the right to modify their bodies in any ways they like, that these changes made them feel better about themselves and that plastic surgeries are much more common in South Korea as opposed to other countries as even foreigners travel to that country to undergo such treatments.

    I can understand both points of view and won't take sides since it remains a personal decision. However, I find this debate about the necessity of plastic surgeries quite intriguing. Sixbomb is the first group to openly discuss this topic while multiple other Korean pop artists have undergone plastic surgeries but didn't dare speak about this topic. I must admit I like both songs and especially ''After'' quite a lot. Even though I obviously can't personally relate to the lyrics since I'm not at all interested in undergoing plastic surgery and have always appreciated the natural beauty of women, I find the vibes, optimism and energy of both songs quite gripping and the challenging topic at least intriguing.

    Make up your own mind about this complex topic and don't mind sharing your point of view. Here are ''Before and ''After'' by Sixbomb!

    ''Before''

    ''After''

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  • Yes, it's that time of the year again! The Stanley Cup playoffs are going to start this Wednesday. Even though my favorite team, the Ottawa Senators, haven't made the playoffs and had a quite miserable season, I will watch the playoffs from a neutral point of view and I must say that several duels look really promising. Here are my predictions for the first round.

     

    Eastern Conference:

     

    Tampa Bay Lightning VS New Jersey Devils: Lightning in five

    The New Jersey Devils have been surprisingly good this season which is mostly due to an absolutely outstanding Taylor Hall. If the team continues its reconstruction around this star player, great things will be ahead in a few years. The Tampa Bay Lightning have been solid all season and have a lot of depth and are the clear favorites here. I could see the New Jersey Devils win a home game but everything else but a Floridean domination would be a huge surprise. I would say Tampa Bay will win the series in five games.

     

    Boston Bruins VS Toronto Maple Leafs: Bruins in seven

    This is going to be a really brutal, intense and tight duel between the only Original Six teams in the playoffs this year. The Toronto Maple Leafs still haven't forgotten about the bitter loss in game seven of the series five years ago and will do everything to have their revenge. The Boston Bruins have found a great balance between experienced veterans and quick youngsters. This duel is probably the toughest to predict. Given their cohesion, experience and spirit, I would favor the Boston Bruins winning this series in seven games again. Toronto will be traumatized.

     

    Washington Capitals VS Columbus Blue Jackets: Capitals in five

    Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella is always in for a surprise and the things he has accomplished with his current team are absolutely outstanding. However, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been losing some steam over the final few weeks of the regular season in my book. The same thing can't be said about the Washington Capitals who have played absolutely outstanding regular seasons for four years in a row. However, the Washington Capitals never got past the second round of the playoffs in the past few years. I think the Washington Capitals are the best NHL team that hasn't won a Stanley Cup so far. Maybe they have learned from their past experiences and will be more solid this time around. Since they are on quite a run right now, I expect them to win this series in five games.

     

    Pittsburgh Penguins VS Philadelphia Flyers: Penguins in five

    The battle of Pennsylvania is going to be intense between two teams which have a big rivalry. I expect plenty of dirty fights, hits and provocations of all sorts. Getting inside their opponents' head is also the only chance the Philadelphia Flyers have to win this series. They had a solid season offensively but still struggle defensively. The Pittsburgh Penguins have won two Stanley Cups in a row and seem to be insatiable. With their cohesion, experience and will, it would be a miracle if they didn't win this series. I predict the Pittsburgh Penguins to win this series in five games.

     

    Western Conference:

     

    Nashville Predators VS Colorado Avalanche: Predators in five

    The Colorado Avalanche have surprised just as much in the Western Conference this year as the New Jersey Devils have in the Eastern Conference. The team around Nathan MacKinnon is going through a rebuilding process and yet the team has played a season above expectations, especially offensively. However, I can't see the underdog beating the Nashville Predators who won the Presidents' Trophy for best team of the regular season this year. The team from Tennessee seems to be even stronger than last season and they already made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. I expect them to win this series in five games.

     

    Winnipeg Jets VS Minnesota Wild: Jets in four

    The Winnipeg Jets were a joy to watch all season long. The young team is creative, dynamic and efficient, especially offensively and its only weak spot might be the goal-tending which was still solid this season. This team has a bright future ahead and the present already looks extremely promising. The Minnesota Wild had a solid season without any fireworks. I could see the red hot Jets run over the Wild in only four games. These guys are on fire!

     

    Vegas Golden Knights VS Los Angeles Kings: Kings in six

    Who would have thought that the expansion team from the desert of Nevada would be among the best teams and make the playoffs in its first year of existence? Even initially skeptical hockey fans are now praising this team's accomplishments and one has to point out the outstanding work of the general manager and the head coach who have put together a team that gives everything it has every single game. When is this astonishing Cinderella story coming to an end? I believe the time has come in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings have made some great transactions before the deadline in late February and have an impressive roster with very experienced players that will smart out Vegas Golden Knights' ambitions and energy. I think the Los Angeles Kings are going to win this series in six games.

     

    Anaheim Ducks VS San Jose Sharks: Ducks in seven

    This is a very difficult series to predict. The Anaheim Ducks had a slow start of the season with a few injuries but have quickened up the pace towards the end of the season. The San Jose Sharks have been more consistent and have made a few interesting transactions but haven't been entirely convincing this season and have an aging core of key players as well. Right now, the trend seems to be in favor of the Anaheim Ducks. I could see the series going all the way to game seven but predict that the Anaheim Ducks are going to win.

     

    These are my predictions of the first round but I must admit that I was often wrong last season and my hockey pools of the regular season this year were also rather underwhelming to say the least. Maybe I have more luck this time around. 

     

    If I had to predict the Stanley Cup Finals, I would predict a duel between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Winnipeg Jets and guess that the Tampa Bay Lightning would win the Stanley Cup this year. Let's wait and see.

     

    What do you think? What are your predictions of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs?

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  • More than meets the eye

    Ready Player One (2018)

    In the seventies, women were into sharp-dressed revolutioners. In the eighties, athletic types became more and more popular. Throughout the nineties, ideals became more material and people with beautiful and fast cars would attract people. Nowadays, geeks are all the rage. Twenty years ago, those people were outsiders because of their chubby features, big glasses and strange beards and because they spend most of their free time in front of their consoles in their parents' basement, wearing Mario Bros. shirts and drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos. Today, these outsiders have become trendy because of their chubby features, big glasses and strange beards and because they spend most of their free time in front of their consoles in their parents' basement, wearing Mario Bros. shirts and drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos. Sometimes, this world is a strange place. In order to understand more about this stereotype and pimp my trendy knowledge, I decided to give Ready Player One a shot.

    I didn't expect much but got a very rewarding surprise. Ready Player One avoids stereotypes as opposed to my somewhat exaggerated yet quite accurate introduction. This movie could have focused on great-looking main characters who are destined for each other. But this isn't Divergent. The movie could have been overacted with overtly dramatic emotional ups and downs portraying immature teenagers. But this isn't The Hunger Games. The movie could have overwhelmed us with eye candy in form of massive flashy special effects without any depth. But this isn't Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The film could have had a quite emotionless plot without any interest set in a stereotypical dystopian world. But this isn't Ghost in the Shell. The movie could have felt quite stretched with its ambitious running time of one hundred forty minutes and included vapid lows throughout the middle section. But this isn't Blade Runner 2049.

    Ready Player One is better than all the movies mentioned before. The two main characters are grounded and sympathetic which makes their love story surprisingly credible and emotional. The acting performances are balanced as the characters are sometimes overwhelmed by emotions but often have to use their intellect to solve problems. The only moment when the movie overwhelms us with flashy colours is in the first five minutes to briefly introduce the virtual reality of OASIS but the rest of the movie doses special effects very well as the movie balances calm and intellectual moments with dramatic and vivid passages. The plot centered around a massive treasure chase might not be revolutionary but includes numerous clever references to pop culture of which I particularly liked the setting of The Shining, the nod to Mechagodizilla and the allusions to progressive rock veterans Rush. Moreover, the movie has several interesting messages such as the fact that nothing is as magic as our own reality. I also liked the side characters, especially the unique inventor of OASIS who reminds me of a mixture of Olaf Schubert and Tommy Wiseau. Finally, the movie didn't waste one single minute and was entertaining from start to finish thanks to an already interesting novel this movie was based upon, outstanding scriptwriting efforts and very solid directional work.

    In the end, I can only recommend watching this movie at your local theater. You don't need a distracting, expensive and headache-inducing 3D version at Cineplex though, just go along with the old school 2D version in your small local cinema. It would suit the message and intention behind the novel and film much better. Now I can realate much more to geeks with their chubby features, big glasses and strange beards who spend most of their free time in front of their consoles in their parents' basement, wearing Mario Bros. shirts and drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos.

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  • Drafi Deutscher's ''Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht'' played live in Germany!

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    These days I'm constantly listening to one of my very favorite bands: Japanese heavy metal veterans Loudness who are still going strong almost four decades into their careers. I decided to present you a collection of video clips retracing the band's incredible career, starting with their charismatic breakthrough single ''Crazy Nights'' back in 1984 and ending with the band's most recent video clip for the excellent ''Soul on Fire'' released in 2018. It was quite tough to find video clips of the band's outstanding early years from 1981 to 1983 and the group's experimental phase from 1994 to 1999. However, this is just a short introduction. If you like what you hear, I can only recommend to check out more stuff of this unique band. M.Z.A.!

    ''Crazy Nights'' (1984)

    ''Gotta Fight'' (1985)

    ''Let It Go'' (1986)

    ''This Lonely Heart'' (1987)

    ''Long Distance Love'' (1988)

    ''You Shook Me'' (1989)

    ''Down 'n' Dirty'' (1991)

    ''Black Widow'' (1992)

    ''Crazy Samurai'' (2004)

    ''The Battleship Musashi'' (2005)

    ''The Love of My Life'' (2006)

    ''Metal Mad'' (2008)

    ''Hit the Rails'' (2009)

    ''The King of Pain'' (2010)

    ''The Power of Truth'' (2011)

    ''Break New Ground'' (2012)

    ''Soul on Fire'' (2018)

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