Monday, January 21, 2019

Amateur Draft Analysis

DREAM: I'm the lead guitarist and co-lead singer for a Canadian rock band.  I use the term 'Canadian rock band' to give you an idea of how popular we are, since I think the phrase invites a certain understanding of our mid-tier status.  For children of the 1990's, my band is the type that would have a lead single on the MuchMusic Video Countdown, but we'd top out around #6 or #7.  Our second single and video could also make the Countdown but get no further than #14 if we're lucky.

Anyway, that's what kind of band we are.  We're playing a show in a medium-sized venue, say around 1000-1500 people.  (If you've ever been to the Opera House in Toronto, it's basically that.)  It is, nonetheless, a packed house.  We're up on stage and, after the opening song of our encore, I invite my brother up on the stage.  My brother is dressed in a plain white t-shirt and beige cargo shorts, the same outfit he was wearing in our hit video, a cover of the Rolling Stones' "She's So Cold."  Our video for this cover was just my brother essentially standing in spot doing a very basic arms raised/legs slightly moving dance that you'd see from any guy who's trying to dance without actually knowing how to dance.  When I say this was 'just' our video, I mean it --- my brother was the only person featured, very similar to the Black Keys' "Lonely Boy" video.

Anyway, my introduction of my brother gets a big cheer from the recognizant crowd, as he's become something of a viral celebrity due to our video.  He takes the cheers in good humour and good-naturedly goes his dance during our song.  And then I woke up.

ANALYSIS
: Even in my wildest dreams, I'm only in a mid-range Canadian rock band, though if you think about it, it's kind of the perfect type of stardom.  I'd never want to be actually famous since celebrity seems like an enormous bother.  If you're a mid-tier Canadian rock star, however, you'd get recognized maybe once a week?  Twice if you happen to venture into a used record store?  I could deal with that, for sure.  Just enough dap to make one known, yet not so famous that I couldn't go to the grocery store without getting mobbed.  I don't need paparazzi to see me buying my boxes of Rice Krispies.

Adding to this minor fame is the fact that arguably our biggest 'hit' isn't even an original song.  I don't think I've heard "She's So Cold" for weeks or even months, probably not since the last time I popped in my Stones greatest hits album.  I doubt I've heard it on the radio since frankly, if you're an oldies station and you're going to play a Stones tune, you have a lot of better options (still a very good song, though).  Therefore, I have zero idea why it's popping up in my subconscious, especially since our cover was about 96% the same as the Rolling Stones original.  For the record, I didn't sing, the lead vocals were taken by the other guitarist/singer in my imaginary band --- none of the faces of the other guitarist, bassist or drummer were people I'd ever seen before in my life.  They were just A Band (not The Band).

So anyway, the weirdest part of the dream is clearly that my brother is now The Dancing Guy From That Video.  This is actually the kind of quirky thing I could actually see him doing.  He once actually won a significant cash prize playing Roll Up The Rim, so all bets are off for zaniness in this kid's life.  Actually, the weirdest part probably isn't him dancing, but rather that we're getting along, as we're the kind of brothers who instantly revert to chirping each other and arguing like children whenever we spend any time together, even though we're both men in our 30's.  Perhaps music is the great equalizer between us.  We've been arguing about U2 and Nirvana for the better part of our lives, but maybe we can find common ground with the Stones?

It occurs to me that a video of a lone dancing man makes no damn sense for "She's So Cold," which is entirely about how the singer is so hot for a woman while she is (spoiler alert!) so cold to him.  Wouldn't it make more sense to show a split screen image, with one half being my dancin' fool of a brother, and then the other half showing a woman just sitting there?  It'd be the most PG-rated way possible of showing hotness and coldness in a relationship sense, but still, it'd be funny.  If we'd used this other version, we would surely have shot to #1 on the MuchMusic Countdown.

Also of note, we did have an original song kicking off our encore, though it was such generic Sandbox-esque or Odds-esque rock that I can't remember it.  Just great.  Paul McCartney goes to bed and literally dreams the tunes to "Yesterday" and "Let It Be," while I go to bed and can't dream up anything memorable.  Could it be possible that McCartney is a better musician than me?!  No….it's the children who are wrong.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

National Popcorn Day

Back in university, I was part of the school's improv comedy club.  The popularity (among wannabe drama kids, at least) of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" inspired any number of would-be Colin Mochries, Wayne Bradys, and Ryan Stileseses to take part in the club, which met once per week in some random room somewhere on campus to....

....well, I'd like to say we really dove into the improv comedy space, in the sense of learning about the art form and getting into 30-minute "Harold" scenes.  In reality, we basically just played the WLIIA games, with one of the group's two organizers acting as the de facto Drew Carey for any given sketch.

I don't want to say I was the star of the troupe since a) I'm modest, and b) it would be a stone-cold lie, given the number of funny people involved.  If I had to list the top 10 laughs of my life, one entry would definitely be the sketch where this guy Sean, playing a dog, had to alert his oblivious owners that a bank robbery was happening around them.  Words cannot describe how funny this was, so really, even trying to type out a description was pointless.

Participating in the sketches was fun and everything, though obviously one big attraction was simply getting to watch others perform.  Since 75% of the group was legitimately very funny, it was a great way to spend an evening, at a fraction of the cost of a Yuk Yuk's ticket.

Just to complete the audience experience, I brought fresh popcorn to every meeting.  You see, whenever the improv club happened to meet in the student community centre, that left us in close proximity to the second-run movie theatre right down the hall.  I defy anyone to walk those halls and not be taken in by the smell of freshly-popped popcorn.  My self-control is only so strong, not that I felt a need to curb this desire whatsoever.

So, every single meeting, I bought some popcorn from the theatre and went to the meeting, happily munching away until it was my time to perform.  Did I incorporate the popcorn into a sketch?  You're damn right; many a popcorn bag found its way into a game of "Props."

The culmination was at the year-end meeting, when the group's organizers bought everyone a small gag gift related to the past year.  My gift was, naturally, a popcorn popper.  I take some pride in the fact that I think my gift was the most expensive of the bunch, since I seem to recall that everything else was something that could've been picked up in the campus variety store.  But a popcorn popper?  That took some effort.  That required a trip to, like, Walmart or something.

And, almost 15 years later, that popcorn popper is....okay, for the sake of the narrative, it would be great if it was still operational.  But it really conked out about a decade ago.  The popcorn popper I bought to replace it, however....also died out.  I've learned that popcorn poppers generally last maybe five years if they're consistently used, and brother, was mine ever consistently used.

Anyway, the replacement to the replacement of the gift popcorn popper is still going strong.  I give it a year.  Happy National Popcorn Day, everyone!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Hot! Live! Music! (PMJ Edition)

"Dancing Queen," Postmodern Jukebox (ft. Gunhild Carling)
Bonus points here for the singer's old-timey voice!  Put a few more crackles into the recording and I'd assume this was actually from the 1920's.  By the way, given that it's 2019, isn't it weird that we're this close to having to refer to another decade as "the 20's?"  It'll take some getting used to, but if the result is a return to the flapper style and the Charleston, count me in!  If we could avoid another Depression, however, that'd be ideal.


"Bad Romance," Postmodern Jukebox (ft. Sara Niemietz & The Sole Sisters)
Hey, should I technically consider these PMJ videos to be "live" performances?  They're obviously different from proper studio recordings, though they are in studio nonetheless.  I probably should've asked this before posting, like, dozens of these things over the years, so let's just stick with it.

"Dream On," Postmodern Jukebox (ft. Morgan James)
Hey, what was up with that weird Super Bowl commercial Steven Tyler did last year (or maybe two years ago?), when he drove around a racetrack a bunch of times at such a time-bending speed that he reversed the aging process and turned his leathery mug into his old 1970's self?  I forget what that commercial was even for....tires?  Skin cream?  Delusion?  Well, hang on, I guess a lot of commercials are for delusion, more or less.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Top Nine Things I Angrily Yell/Mutter To Myself While Dealing With Poor Drivers

I’m not saying I have actual road rage or anything, yet it's incredible that at least a dozen of the 100 worst drivers in the world always seem to be out and about whenever I'm in the car.  What are the odds?!  With this in mind…

9. “What is this, a parade?”

8. “Nice signal, moron.” (Obviously, only said in situations when the moron in question hasn't signaled before changing lanes or making a turn.)

7. “DRIVE YOUR CAR!”

6. “%^∓^(#*^)#$(^*” (Just fill in whichever curse word you want, I’ve used basically all of them.)

5. “This is interminable!”  (For some reason, I bust out the word ‘interminable’ only when I’m stuck in traffic or waiting out a light.  I’m not sure I’ve used it in any other situation other than driving.  It’s a weird language quirk.)

4. “You yutz.” (Another word I seemingly only use when driving, ‘yutz’ is a Yiddish term that basically means ‘fool’ or ‘idiot.’  Kudos to the Golden Girls' Dorothy Zbornak for teaching me this term years ago!)

3. “First time driving a car, eh?”  (This is usually followed by a curse word.)

2. “Every car in the world!”  (Uttered when I’m trying to make a turn, yet have to wait since about a zillion cars are coming in both directions.)

1. “You piece of human garbage!”  (This has become an actual catchphrase of mine, as noted by multiple people who often travel in my car.  Each of them have told me they’ve taken to using the description themselves while driving and been accosted by some idiot fellow motorist.  My friend Joanne, in particular, seemed almost proud that she finally got to use the term herself.  You’re welcome??)

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Mighty Observations

The unsung hero of the old "Casey At The Bat" poem is clearly the player hitting after Casey in the Mudville lineup.  Casey is Mr. Everything superstar, yet Mudville's opponents don't seem to even consider intentionally walking him to set up a force play at any base for the third out.  Mighty Hitter-After-Casey must've been the real threat, or maybe the opposing team was trying for some lefty vs. righty matchup strategy or something.

Or, maybe the opposing team knew they could fool Casey since they knew he was a gigantic egomaniac who'd apparently let two strikes sail right by him because they "ain't his style."  One needn't be a baseball stats guru to know that the pitcher gets a huge edge on an 0-2 count, so this was just a ridiculously cocky move from Casey.

If I'm reading the poem correctly, this was some innovative lineup usage from the Mudville manager.  Common sense would seem to dictate that you'd always put your best hitters at the top of your lineup to ensure they'd get the most at-bats, though for years, teams tended to want a "leadoff man" type of a quick base-stealer who didn't necessarily always get on base at a proper clip.  Not Mudville --- here's big slugger Casey, ostensibly hitting leadoff.  One has to assume that Flynn and Blake were the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup given their ignominious (and vaguely homophobic) designations as a "lulu" and a "cake."

That is, unless, it was actually HORRIBLE lineup construction.  Maybe Flynn was hitting leadoff only because he was fast, logic many managers have used over the years before people got a clue about on-base percentage.  Blake then hits second due to...uh, who knows.  That would put Casey in the #3 spot in the batting order, traditionally reserved for a team's best batter.  This actually might be the most logical scenario since if my previous theory was correct, Blake the #9 hitter would've been the pitcher.  (CatB was written well over 80 years before the creation of the designated hitter rule.)  Surely you'd think the poem's author would cut Blake some slack for his inability to hit if he was actually a pitcher, that seems unfair.  Then again, this was 1888; hitting your pitcher ninth wasn't a hard-and-fast rule at this point.  Mudville's pitcher could've really been hitting anywhere in the lineup while Flynn and Blake were just regular position players who stunk and were thus the #8 and #9 batters.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

New Year's Day!

I'll bet that by 5pm, you'd thought your old boy Mark had forgotten to post his annual New Year's Day video.  YOU FOOL.  I'm just glad U2 busted out a slightly new arrangement on tour this year to give this posting a bit of fresh flavour.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Friday, December 28, 2018

Survivor Ratings: Nick

My last few Survivor pieces have been full of complaints about the show itself, so it’s with great pleasure (and no small bit of surprise) that I can now rave about the best season in ages.  David vs. Goliath almost seemed like a response to mounting fan criticism,* as it more or less entirely reversed some of the show’s more annoying recent trends.  The bulk of the focus was on the players themselves rather than the actual game, and so when we did get into the gameplay-heavier aspects of idols, twists, and blindsides, the audience was actually invested in the outcome.  Nick Wilson somewhat represented the best of both worlds, presented as a player who was firmly invested in the “modern” aspects of the game, while still winning due to the tried-and-true method of having a lot of good relationships on the jury and simply being more liked than the other two members of the final three.

* = from fans in general, not just little old me….though obviously my opinion (and stomach) carries ENORMOUS WEIGHT

How He Won: Uh, well, he had a lot of good relationships with the people on the jury and was simply more liked than the other two members of the final three.  Is there an echo in here?  I’ve heard Nick described as a combination between JT and Stephen from Survivor: Tocantins, which is a pretty solid comparison.  He has both JT’s genial, aw-shucks attitude* and Stephen’s more focused game-playing tactics, wrapped up into a pretty strong package.  Nick is one of a handful of winners who never had a single vote cast against him in the entire game, which is impressive on a couple of levels.  Firstly, it seemed like his David tribe teammates recognized immediately that he was a threat, and it seemed like he might’ve been targeted as the very first elimination had tribal council not been canceled due to Pat’s injury.  It was an early portent of Nick’s ability that he was able to recover from that somewhat shaky start and then basically escape trouble for much of the game, despite being tribe-swapped into a 3-2 minority position and then being outnumbered along with the rest of the Davids at the merge.

* = I can’t stress this enough, I’m only referring to the JT from Tocantins, not the JT of his later appearances when he revealed himself to be a) rather a douchebag and b) kind of hilariously bad at Survivor without Stephen there to help.  Stephen’s own failures in his own return appearance (Survivor: Cambodia) really underlined the strength of that partnership, as both really needed the other to thrive in the game.

More than a few Survivor winners (Yul Kwon, Natalie White, Chris Daugherty, Denise Stapley, or even Nick’s half-doppelganger JT) have come back from an underdog position to succeed, and in a way, it’s something of an advantageous position.  It not only gives you a clear “winner’s story” for the jury, but it also almost gives you carte blanche to do whatever you want, gameplay-wise, since you can excuse it all as “hey, my back was against the wall, I had to do whatever I could.”  As long as you’re not a completely obnoxious ass about it (i.e. Russell Hantz), a jury will respect someone who has to grind their way to the end, and obviously it helps that Nick just generally seemed to get along with everyone.  Looking at the DvG jury members, it didn’t seem like any of them had a real bone to pick with Nick, with the possible exception of Christian — the show didn’t do much to highlight Christian and Mike’s friendship, so while it could have just been as simple as Christian voting for Mike because he liked him more, maybe Christian was also a little miffed that Nick turned on him.

Skillset: Nick didn’t get a target on him until late in the game, but he was able to win the last three immunity challenges to punch his ticket to the final tribal council.  I wouldn’t call Nick a great challenge competitor, as it helped that many of the biggest challenge threats had already been eliminated, but obviously he was good enough to get it done in the clutch.

I’ve mentioned Nick’s social game already, and it was highlighted by his amusing tactic of forming final-two alliances with multiple people, all with a cutesy name — “Mason/Dixon” with Christian, “The Thoroughbreds” with Elizabeth, “The Rock Stars” with Mike.  The latter may have been the most important, as it helped Nick evade the vote when he and Lyrsa were down 3-2 to the Goliaths on the Jabeni tribe.  Nick was helped by the fact that Angelina and Mike were more than ready to turn on Natalie (who was incredible, yet somehow maybe only the third best “character” of the season), yet getting Lyrsa eliminated was Nick’s most underrated trick of the game.  Going into a merge, you’d think Angelina and Mike would’ve been more intent on eliminating the more obvious challenge threat in Nick, yet Mike trusted Nick as a potential ally if Mike himself found himself in the minority amidst the rest of the Goliaths, so Nick escaped danger yet again.

While it seemed like everyone recognized Nick as a threat, he was never anyone’s first choice to be voted out, which gave him some room to maneuver.  Christian was Nick’s big shield in this regard, as everyone universally regarded him as the biggest jury threat since everyone loved the guy.  Christian was an instant classic of a Survivor character, initially seeming like only a non-tryhard, non-jerky version of John Cochrane, yet evolving into just a nonstop source of comedy and a unanimous fan favourite.

(And even then, he still wasn’t the best character of the season, thanks to Angelina.  Oh, Angelina.  “Nonstop source of comedy” is an understatement.  If Christian’s humour came out of his genuine nature, Angelina’s complete and total delusion about almost all aspects of her game was nearly Coach-esque in its depth.  Mike, ever the screenwriter, perfectly described her as Survivor’s answer to Tracy Flick.  There is a 100% chance that Angelina and Christian will be back on the show if they’re interested in a return appearance, and this will be one time when Angelina can actually easily win a negotiation.  “Jeff, can I come back on the show?  Jeff?  Jeff?”) 

Could He Do It Again?: Well, if he’s really like JT, Nick will crash and burn in humiliating fashion the second time around.  I can see his tricks not working in a return visit, especially with his multiple final-twos.  I’m not sure if Nick strikes me as the kind to ever want to come back, though he did seem like a pretty big fan of the show who might get a kick out of playing again.  Frankly, the DvG players had to suffer through such godawful weather conditions this season that I don’t blame any of them for not wanting to go through another Survivor experience.

Maybe the bigger question here is if Survivor can do it again, in terms of giving the fans another great season.  I’m really hoping that DvG is the start of a revival for the show, since the recipe for a quality Survivor season isn’t rocket science — just cast good people and then make the show about the players, not about the arbitrary nature of the game itself.  If you focus on the players, then we’re excited when, say, the Davids have a bunch of idols and advantages and can save themselves, since we’re all rooting for the likeable underdog tribe.  If you focus on the players, we know why each and every vote takes place, why relationships evolve or crumble as they do, and we get a sense of what all 20 people are like.  (And even in this season, there were still a lot of fairly generic players, though the rising tide of Angelina, Christian, Natalie and even second-tier good “characters” like Gabby or the Mayor Of Slamtown raised all boats.). I won’t lie, the gimmick for “Era Of Extinction” and the choices of the four returning players don’t fill me with a lot of hope for the upcoming season, but after DvG, I’m now willing to give the series more leeway. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Xmas Xonfessional

Nobody's reading this blog on Christmas Day, right?  It's safe to do this, right?

*deep breath*

I've never seen "Scrooged."

Whew, it feels good to get that off my chest.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Spider-Beating

While I'm now suing Sony and Marvel for $100 billion for ripping off* my idea for a Spider-Verse movie, what I'm really most upset about is that they couldn't have found room to include the old 1960's cartoon Spidey.  C'mon, Spider-Ham gets some play but 60's Spidey and his middle-aged man voice couldn't have been worked in there somewhere?

* = "Mark, didn't you just take your idea from the Spider-Verse storyline in the comics?"  Be quiet, you!

Then again, based on this footage, it's doubtful that the 60's Spider-Man would have provided much backup to Miles, Spider-Ham, and the gang.  He seemed to get knocked over by no less than a stiff breeze.  (Or, as you see in the first few seconds, by a "vibrator," which, uh, I'm guessing meant something different in the 60's than it does now.)  Also, I recall watching this cartoon as a kid and it might've actually been my first exposure to Spider-Man, but I remember NONE of this.  When I got around to reading comics years later, the only thing I really remembered about Spidey's whole backstory from the cartoons was Aunt May, the Green Goblin, and the Daily Bugle crew.  The Goblin is the only villain I remembered from the cartoons, so it was a surprise to see classic enemies like the Rhino, Dr. Octopus, Vulture, etc. pop up in this montage. 

In fairness, about 15 years ago, I did a re-read of my old comics collection and Spidey really did take a lot of beatings.  He almost inevitably always lost his first fight to a villain, or maybe the first two or three fights, before figuring out a way to finally defeat them.  But even in the comics, Spider-Man was able to avoid, for instance, being knocked unconscious by swinging into a clock tower or....wait, being shot to death by Jameson?!