Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More Lord of the Rings Lego news!

The awesomeness that will be "Lord of the Rings LEGO" continues! Recently, images of the principle mini-figures and some set names were released. The set names, along with the mini-figures included, were leaked and hence unofficial. The photos for the mini-figures, however, were officially released by LEGO. 

I am ecstatic about these new sets but am still confused why they wouldn't start with sets that would tie into the Hobbit movie. I think they should definitely produce sets for the trilogy but it would make more sense to begin with the first book to keep the sets in a more chronological order. It also stands to reason that MGM Studios and Peter Jackson would've preferred a toy licence with Lego that had them first make Hobbit sets. 

List of set names:
- "Gandalf Arrives" – Minifigures: Gandalf, Frodo
- "Shelob Attacks" – Minifigures: Samwise, Frodo, Gollum
- "Uruk-hai Army" – Minifigures: x4 Uruk-hai with a siege crossbow, x1 Rohirrim Soldier, x1 Rider Of Rohan with his horse
- "Attack On Weathertop"- Minifigures: Samwise, Frodo, Aragon, x2 Nazgul
- "Mines Of Moria" – Minifigures: Frogo, Gimli, Legolas, Boromir, x2 Goblins, x2 Skeletons, Cave Troll
- "The Battle Of Helms Deep" – Minifigures: Aragon, Gimli, Legolas, Theoden, x5 Uruk-hai

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lepors & Pirates

A new claymation movie entitled Pirates! Band of Misfits is set to be released on April 27th, 2012. The movie is produced by Aardman Animation, the same company that brought us British claymation gems like Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. Recently, the movie has come under fire from Leprosy Advocacy groups because of a scene where the Pirate captain boards a boat that turns out to be filled with lepers. According to the angered advocacy groups, a particular comedic scene that involved a leper loosing his arm only helps to further the stigma of the disease (movie trailer below).

Leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease) is a disease that continues to ravage people across the globe. Leprosy is curable with the treatment of several drugs over a period of months to years, with vital importance being placed on early diagnosis. Leprosy is uncommon in wealthy nations but is common in poorer nations such as India and across Africa.

I did not agree with the outright removal of this scene by leprosy groups, but instead felt that this was an instance of both PC gone a muck and a huge missed opportunity by leprosy groups, as contradictory as it may sound. What I mean by this is that political correctness in this case had the result of stripping the subject entirely away from the a source that potentially could have brought greater exposure to the disease -Pirates: Band of Misfits. A joke, that by appearance in the trailer suggested it had made light of the issue but did not seem to be maleficent in nature towards those afflicted with the disease.  The missed opportunity here was huge. Instead of stripping the joke away, leprosy advocacy groups could instead have encouraged Aardman Animation to include a short trailer that educated the audience about the disease. This trailer could have been shown right before the movie and mentions the joke within the trailer, instructing the audience how leprosy is actually a current disease where funding is greatly needed for medicine and research. The result of this missed opportunity would be to educate millions of people across the world about the current issues involved with leprosy and perhaps have an added benefit of gaining new benefactors through those watching the film.

The common saying "there's no such thing as bad publicity" does not apply here. All that has happened here is bad publicity for leprosy advocacy groups because of their missed opportunity to promote their cause and that they chose a fight with a children's animated movie. What furthers the situation is that a particular individual from The Leprosy Mission has made it her goal to connect with anyone who disagrees with the removal of this scene. This lawyer, a miss Sian Arulanatham, is the Head of Programs for the mission and a self-proclaimed Human Rights Defender according to her Twitter account. Sian sends personal insults and accusations to people who criticize this move by leprosy groups on Twitter. Below is the Twitter exchange between myslef and miss Arulanatham.

The part that annoyed me the most about miss Arulanatham's Tweets was that she turned my criticism of a situation into a personal insult and assumed a lot about someone she had never met. In her first Tweet she wrote "clearly you have not experienced such suffering". Such attacks on people via the social network does no one any good and in fact it ultimately hurts the institution /beliefs you represent, in this case leprosy advocacy groups. In fact, this runs counter to what the leprosy advocacy groups were saying in the first place: that Pirates had made the joke a personal matter against those afflicted with leprosy, or in another words a joke is not funny when it comes at the expense of someone. Furthermore, her Tweet would suggest that only those that have been affect by 'suffering' can understand leprosy. Does this mean that my opinions mean less because I have not 'suffered' enough according to her vague criteria.
I truly hope that the Leprosy Mission rethinks who they have representing them through social media networks and also rethinks how they want to go about creating social awareness for their cause. Via attacking children's movies and forming personal attacks on people through social media venues, groups such as the Leprosy Mission will never achieve the positive exposure that I believe they are ultimately seeking. 
I believe that issues such as leprosy deserve attention and illustrate a true tragedy in this world since it is a problem that can be solved. We have the medication but for various reasons it is not being dealt to those suffering with the problems. What is disheartening is that the groups that supposedly stand to help and be the voice for those ailing with leprosy are instead more concerned with how a children's movie is going to depict the disease and how a few people on Twitter disagreed with their stance against the said movie.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Problems with the 2012 Oscar Nominations

Oscar Nominations were listed today and right away I found myself angry! Below are my problems with the list and my opinion on who will win according to their list. The full list of 2012 Oscar Nominations can be found here.

1. Why were there only 9 films chosen for Best Picture? 50/50, Ides of March, Crazy Stupid Love, Young Adult, and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are all real contenders for the spot of 10th film nod. Artist will win, but Hugo deserves to win.

2. Best Actor category filled with award favorites, not necessarily best actors. Leonardo Dicaprio (J. Edgar) and Joseph Gordan Levitt (50/50) should have been included over Brad Pitt. Clooney, Pitt, and Oldman all delivered adequate performances (Oldman perhaps the best), but Dujardin (The Artist) will win. Levitt should have been nominated and won.

3. Best Actress category is filled with incredible performances. There were handfuls of strong leading ladies this year and while some were left out, they were not substituted by weaker actresses unlike the best male actor category -however, I would have liked to have seen Theron (Young Adult) nominated somehow. Meryl Streep will win, and probably should win.

4. Supporting Actor category has two inclusions that take away from more deserving actors. Jonah Hill (Moneyball), in particular, delivered a strong but not award winning performance. Sacha Baron Cohen (Hugo), however, did. Christopher Plummer will win, but Cohen should win.

5. I have no issues with the Best Supporting Actress category. Lots of great female actors this year and it is difficult to choose who was best. I think Octavia Spencer (The Help) will win, but I have to admit to not seeing the Artist yet.

6. Honestly, this was not a terribly strong year for animated movies. From the Oscar list I have only seen two of the nominations, Rango and Kung Fu Panda 2, which neither were all that special. What I do find notable is that Cars 2 was not nominated. This makes it the first time Pixar has not been nominated, and from what I hear from reviewers, they didn't deserve a nomination anyways.

7. In the Best Director category we see David Fincher again being snubbed. I think Fincher and Christopher Nolan need to start up their own self-help I got snubbed by the Oscars again club! Scorsese for Hugo is a shoe-in for winning the award, but Hazanavicius and Payne may give him a run for his money. Overall, a lot of strong contenders.

8. Best Original Score overlooked Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross' amazing soundtrack for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's a real shame because Reznor and Ross produced an amazing soundtrack that added depth to each scene of the movie. Tintin is the obvious choice for me as to who should not have been included in the list, but I think the Artist will win as it is a silent movie and therefore the soundtrack becomes that much more obvious and important.

9. How can there be only TWO nominations for Best Original Song? How? Was there really only two good original songs this year? Bullshit! I'm sure Elton John had at least ONE decent song from Nomeo and Juliet! Plus, The Muppets was loaded with awesome songs! Muppets will easily win.

10. Best Adapted Screen Play makes a HUGE omission by not including Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Huge mistake! My money is on Hugo winning.

11. Best Original Screen Play also made HUGE omissions by not including Young Adult and 50/50
Either one of these movies could have won, but as it stands I would have to choose Midnight in Paris.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Star Wars: The Next Generation, Blue Ray Release

Recently read that TNG seasons, the TV show, will be begin being released on blue-ray early in 2012, beginning with a sampler collection on January 31st. I usually don't care about HD transfers because I have a crappy TV but this time I do because the difference is substantial! On the Random Tuesday website, photos from the DVD set are shown morphing into the same photo from the Blue Ray set. This morphing illustrates some outstanding differences between the two sets. Scenes with characters appear substantially sharper and the film grains from the original production are smoothed out and the lines now appear crisp. Changes in focus are also made, providing greater depth to each scene as well. The most noticeable differences are probably those that involve special effects. These scenes are principally those that feature the Enterprise, where the ship is depicted with considerable more detail. In one particular screen shot, the Enterprise is shown in front of a Klingon Bird of Prey. The Enterprise again is shown with a much higher level of clarity and detail and the Bird of Prey is replaced completely with a CGI version of the ship. 

Overall, the changes look fantastic and is what a lot of fanboys had originally hoped would happen with the Star Wars films -update the film quality and special effects but leave the damn story line alone! Again, here is the link to the website that features the comparison /morphing screen shots.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Popular Culture of the early 1900's -In Film!

Today's cinema produces images and ideas that are sometimes too risque for the general public. Grossly, however, these films are not banned but instead labeled with the nefarious NC17 or X ratings, which imply that no children are allowed to see the film. A recent example of this comes from the 2011 release, Shame, which offered a critically praised lead performance by Michael Fassbender. What produces strong labeling often includes overtly sexual imagery such as graphic sex scenes, while over-the-top violence achieves much less restrictive labels such an R rating. Outright banning of a film is an extremely rare occurrence in the Western cinema world, and the reasons often involve lawsuits that result only in a film being delayed.

The reasons why modern films are provided NC17 ratings or are banned are only slightly different from the rationales utilized in the turn of the 20th Century. My previous post discussed how much popular culture had changed in the past 100 years, but this post illustrates how in some areas popular culture has not changed at all. 

Thomas Edison is the creator of film and two of his initial films were banned for being too sexual in nature! In 1896 Edison released the incredibly short and silent film, The Kiss. This film featured a couple having a short but sweet smooch. In 1900, Edison revisited the subject with Kissing. The image of two lovers partaking in a kiss was too much for the average Western eye and so the films were moth balled. In one shade of light, this is starkly different from today where film scenes with a sexual nature are much more graphic than this before they are moth balled or slapped with strict labels. In another shade of light, popular culture of today and yesterday are no different for it is the subject matter of intimacy between two people that is the mire of our society while images of violence are allowed and praised. In 1900, the most popular film was The Great Train Robbery, which was also crafted by Edison. From the title alone, this film has a much more violent theme than The Kiss or Kissing

I am not suggesting that violent films should be moth balled in replace of more sexual films. I personally enjoy action films and movies such as Pulp Fiction, A Clockwork Orange, and Taxi Driver are among my all time favorite films. However, I think it is instructive to consider what subjects our society restricts and to think of why these subjects over others are viewed in certain ways. By doing so, we as a society can understand ourselves better and come to more holistic conclusions on what direction our society should take in the future.

Documentary of the Arctic Resurfaces after 108 years!

Still from Trip to the Moon
A hundred years ago popular culture was much different than today's. This statement probably won't surprise anyone but I doubt that many people know what was popular 100 years ago. Looking back on what constituted popular culture forces me to think of what is considered popular culture today and how it will be viewed in the future. A hundred years ago popular culture was characterized by learning about foreign cultures and landscapes (to name but two), which are subjects found in famous pieces of literature such as Heart of Darkness and early films such as Trip to the Moon, which is a film presented within the recent wonderful film Hugo.

Early publicity image from the arctic.
In the mid to late 19th Century, film was just beginning. The beginnings of film are rooted in the public showing of photographs, which is something that has been featured in the recent AMC show Hell on Wheels with the two Irish brothers showing photos from home that are projected upon a screen. One of the more popular subjects for these screenings, and for the first silent movies, was images of the savages in exotic locales. The images that were captured during this time have been a rich resource for anthropologists and archaeologists in studying the life-ways of traditional cultures in areas such as South America, Africa, Polynesia, and the Canadian Arctic.

Illustration of the search for the Franklin Expedition.
The arctic, in particular, captured the popular imagination because of it's stark dissimilarity to the world in which Westerner's knew. This ice covered land that appeared to be uninhabitable was instead populated by thriving Inuit groups. This region was also important as a possible route for shipping as the Panama canal had yet to be built at this time. The exploits of Western explorers (think Shackelton and Franklin) became legendary and entranced Western audiences via newspaper articles, public lectures, and of course, newly created slide shows and later moving pictures.

Still from The Romance of the Far Fur Country
Recently, a documentary resurfaced from archives in England that dates to 1919! This silent film was entitled The Romance of the Far Fur Country. This is some of the earliest footage of the Canadian arctic and it seems from the BBC News story that the film is very romantic in nature, which is inline with many of the arctic documentaries of that era. The restored documentary will be shown in numerous arctic communities and hopefully will be made available online through the HBC archives, which is the company that originally financed the film. I recomend you see this film as it provides an idea of what once constituted popular culture and is also an excellent portal into how traditional cultures thrived in the Canadian arctic!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Assassidate ~ New Webseries from David & Kate Hewlett!

David Hewlett hard at work on set of Stargate
David Hewlett is perhaps best known for his role in the Stargate franchise, notably Atlantis. His sister, Kate, also acted alongside him in a few episodes but she is not as well known. David is also known for his writing and acting abilities in the beloved cult Canadian indy films, Cube and Nothing; I beg you to see these two movies if you have not already! Recently, David was cast as the angry neighbor in Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie that was released in the summer of 2011. Privately (or perhaps not so privately), David is known for his consistent Tweeting about his son and their geekish adventures of making lightsabers and learning the inner mysteries of comic book lore. Suffice to say, David is one beloved icon of geekdom! 

Just this week, David and his sister Kate released the first episode of their webseries entitled Assassidate. The first episode is just over 3 minutes long and focuses on a skype conversation between the brother and sister where David reveals that his wife just left him. Within three minutes I managed to laugh more frequently and harder than I have at most of the tv shows aired this season! The premise is unique and filled with geeky references -if you're not a geek, make sure to look up what LARP is before watching this! The comedic timing is also spot on, with juicy punches being jovially thrown between the two siblings. I highly recomend watching this webseries and I hope to see more episodes in the near future!

Geekdad has a good article about this webseries, and the original vid can be found on youtube here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Star Trek Sequel Update!

I loved J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie because it was a fresh and gritty take on a classic sci-fi favorite. I also appreciated the movie because it engaged people that were not originally fans of the franchise, such as my wife who loathed the acting in the original series but loved how the characters were portrayed in the new movie despite how the new actors faithfully rendered the styling of the original Enterprise crew. This being said, I do recognize how many Star Trek fans were dismayed as to how Abrams filmed a Star Trek movie that was more in line with the Star Wars franchise and dismissed some of the core values of the original shows.

The latest news of the Star Trek sequel is that principal photography has begun, along with the announcement that the release date will be May 17th, 2013. Below is the press release from Paramount pictures:
Paramount Pictures announced today that principal photography has commenced in Los Angeles, CA on the sequel to STAR TREK from director J.J. Abrams. The film will be released on May 17, 2013 in 3D. The 2009 re-launch of the “Star Trek” franchise by Abrams was met with critical acclaim and a worldwide gross of over $385 million at the box office.
Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions present a Bad Robot Production of a J.J. Abrams Film. Returning to their posts on the Enterprise are John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoƫ Saldana, Karl Urban, and Anton Yelchin. They are joined by new cast members Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve and Peter Weller.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Top Movies of 2011: My Opinion

For what it's worth, here's my list of the top movies I've seen this year. There are a few movies I did not have a chance to see yet that I am sure would make it somewhere in this list, such as Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, Midnight in Paris, Ides of March, Driver, The Artist, and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Nonetheless, I have seen a large swath of the movies released this year and I have noticed that the ones I believed to be the best were nowhere to be found on the lists others have set up (for instance Rotten Tomatoes). In particular, I strongly felt Hugo was an astounding piece of film despite being unanimously panned and dismissed, unlike the popular clunker that the Descendants was and yet unanimously hailed as being the year's strongest.

The movies here are what I felt were some of the best and most worth watching. I had more of a 'take it or leave it' mentality for movies like Contagion and Transformers, and hence are included here.

My choices:

1. Hugo
 A visually stunning movie where Scorsese delivers a doctoral thesis on why film is important and how 3D can be used to tell a story. This is a masterful movie where each character is well rounded and utilized to their full potential. Most under-rated movie of the year.
2. 50/50
 This was an astounding movie in how real and powerful the subject matter of cancer was presented. The performance by Joseph Gordan Levitt was inspiring and the script was strong. Levitt definitely deserves an Oscar nod, if not the prize itself.

3. War Horse
 It begins with a Disney-esque sequence but quickly turns into a Spielberg classic thereafter. This is a movie constructed around several vignettes that approach the subject of war from a few different angles and manages to do so deftly and with great thought. What surprised me the most was that considering I am not someone who cares for animal centric movies, I was moved and attached to the character of the horse by the end of the film.

4. The Muppets
 To be fair, I am a little biased in my opinion of this movie as I was already a fan of this franchise. However, the people that went to see the movie with me were not but quickly became fans thereafter. I loved how witty and original the songs were, how gifted the jokes were, and how the new movie stayed true to the original conception of the Henson Muppets.
5. Young Adult
 This movie stands out from many of the other movies I saw this year for it's unparalleled acting from Charlize Theron and the level of detail that director Jason Reitman brings to the screen. The story is flawless with having a twisted nature that makes you simultaneously sympathize and hate the main character.
6. Crazy Stupid Love
 Hands down the biggest surprise of the year. Going in I thought I would encounter a generic romantic comedy but instead left seeing a well thought out and composed drama. A multitude of well conceived characters both in story and acting are presented. 
7. Money Ball
 The acting is superb and the cinematography is captivating. The love for the game is on center stage and interest in the characters is abound. The movie falters, however, with not presenting enough on the characters themselves and would have done better if the supporting characters were developed more. 
8. Captain America
 It has the thrills as expected with a summer block-buster, but it also had some of the strongest characters to be found in any movie this year. The movie is filled with fun and excitement, which pleased me on a visceral level but also left me surprised with the breadth of story and character. By far the best of the summer block busters.
9. Friends with Benefits
 Reminded me of 300 Days of Summer, but came up short in the story's grandeur and originality. However, I greatly appreciated the refreshingly real substance of this romantic comedy, which is why I draw parallels to it and 300 Days of Summer. 
10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  Like Captain America, I came in expected a generic summer blockbuster but left seeing something much more. While falling in the category of sci-fi, this is more of a drama that focuses on the relationship between an ailing father and his son. This is an incredibly bleak movie with strong acting and a surprisingly sophisticated story line. One of the year's dark horses.
11. Arthur Christmas
 Funny and touching. The subject matter is not unique as it features the squabbling relationships within a family, but it is executed very well with numerous well timed laughs to make it perhaps the best animated movie of the year.
12. Harry Potter
 The ending of an epic franchise. By itself, the movie is strong but not excellent. However, in the context of the series this finally acts as a terrific bookend. I left the theater feeling satisfied with how the characters were left but was aggravated how it completely dropped the Deathly Hallows' storyline that the previous two movies had been working towards.
13. Thor
  There is nothing deep or Oscar worthy found in this movie. However, this was one of the most fun movies of the year besides The Muppets. Some of the best casting was featured in this movie, with a story line that had a perfect pace and amount of laughs that filtered through the screaming action sequences. The biggest flaw, however, was that a lot more story could have been told. In particular, this story focuses on the decent and resurrection of Thor, but the story pays hardly any time to showing Thor's decent.
14. Bridesmaids
 While funny, I did not find this movie as hysterical as some. It is obviously a female take on The Hangover, and does so with a considerable amount of originality. One of the better comedies of the year.
15. X-Men: First Class
 Like Thor, X-Men had some of the year's best casting. The acting was outstanding but the film suffered from several slow moments in the story; Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy stole the show.
16. Super 8
I want this movie to be better! The first 4/5 of the movie reminded me of the best Spielberg films but the ending was so damn poor and cliched! The movie opens with an original premise and uses aliens as a foil to understand the relationship between father and son, and the loss of the mother character. Excellent dialogue and acting all around, but with such a weak and generic ending it reminded me of District 9 where again we had an original movie that ended like a generic action flick.
17. Descendants
 I don't get why people love this movie so much. George Clooney is good but he is only playing himself; I do not see a noticeable difference from how he portrayed characters in other movies. The directing is well executed with some terrific cinematography, however the story is segmented with characters being haphazardly dropped and a different storyline being awkwardly jammed in half-way through the movie.

Star Wars Lego Mini-Figures: 7957 Sith Nightspeeder

Over the holidays I was given a new Star Wars Lego set! This is a new set based off characters from the Clone Wars tv show and featured Asajj Ventress, Savage Opress, and Anakin Skywalker. This set's vehicle is pretty simple, featuring a skiff-like machine with two detachable rocket-styled bikes. Opress and Ventress utilize the vehicle. There is nothing horribly complicated to this set, and truly the set is memorable only for the mini-figures that it includes.

I did not previously have a Ventress or Opress in my Lego mini-figure collection, but do have several Clone Wars Anakin Skywalker figures. The Ventress mini-figure included two lightsabers with curved handles similar to Count Dooku's. Her body has a simple design with dark blues and blacks, with small amounts of silver on the front. The head has an intricate design, faithfully representing the markings she sports in the cartoon series. These markings are found on both the front and back of her head.

Savage Opress is easily one of the most complex mini-figures I've seen. He came with two weapons, a double-sided lightsaber and a large war axe. The front of his face has an intricate design similar to that of Darth Mauls', but is in eye and has a head attachment with upward extended horns. A chest plate fits under his head and covers another intricate yellow design. When the chest plate is fitted on, this yellow design is completely obscured. I appreciate the level of detail here as Lego did not have to add the yellow design with it being covered up.

#7957 set Anakin
Lastly, an Anakin Skywalker mini-figure was included in this set. He came with a blue lightsaber that had a dull silver handle. Black and brown colors dominate his body, with simple lines suggesting robes and a belt, which is the attire worn during the cartoon series. There are scars on both the left and right side of his face and his hair is big and disheveled. Compared to the other Clone Wars series Anakin Skywalker I have (from the #7669, Anakin's Jedi Starfighter set) , the heads are identical, but the chest for the new one is much darker in color and has a slightly different pattern.

All three mini-figures from #7957
#7669 set Anakin with R2D2

Saturday, January 7, 2012

World Juniors 2012: Calgary

For the past few weeks I've been working at the World Junior's event in Calgary, Alberta. I wasn't doing anything too remarkable, but the event itself was. There were people from multiple countries such as Latvia, Sweeden, Russia, and so on; all of whom had different roles with the hockey teams that were participating in the events. During the two or so week long event I managed to see a few games including the gold medal game that pitted Russia against Sweden. On the day of the gold medal game I saw or met numerous people associated with the various teams. I also saw or met numerous notable hockey and political personalities that were attending the games, such as Steve Yzerman, Prime Minister Harper, and Jim Peplinski. 

Gold medal game: Rus vs Swe
A few of the individuals I met, including Peplinski, gave me pins. I am not a pin collector but as you can imagine from the kind of things I discuss on my blog here, I do collect a variety of things. The pins that were given to me are incredibly unique and definitely make great keepsakes from attending and working the games. Additionally, my experiences have been nothing but positive and in particular one pin showed just how enthusiastic and kind the people associated with the World Juniors teams were.
Event Organization pin.
IIHF 2012 pin.
Finish /Swedish 2012 IIHF pin.
Russian hockey pin (Russian text).
In all, I was given 4 pins. None of these pins could be bought at the event. Instead, certain individuals (mainly people associated with the IIHF or specific teams) handed out pins when asked. One pin I received was provided by the event organization for working there. This pin features an image of the World Junior's location, unlike any of the other pins I saw. A second pin, given to me by Peplinski, is the IIHF 2012 event pin. A third pin commemorated the Finish and Swedish teams and was given to me by one of the Swedish team coaches. The fourth pin represented Russian hockey and was given to me by the assistant coach of the Russian team. When I had first met the assistant coach I had asked if he had any extra team pins. In his broken English, he said he had run out but would grab more from his room. I didn't think for a second that he would actually return, but sure enough he did. 

Those associated with the Russian team were by far the nicest of anyone at the games. The Russians were not the nicest because they gave me a pin, but instead because of how genuinely enthusiastic they were about the games. They were enthusiastic about Canada and hockey as a whole, which is counter to the serious nature that has epitomized their popular perception. It is because of this that I will cheer a bit more loudly whenever I see a Russian team play!