Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jonathan Demme

Director of one of the few "undisputed" Best Picture Oscar winners, AND director of the single greatest concert film of all time.  These are alone enough to merit a solemn RIP for Jonathan Demme, to say nothing of all the other impressive work on his resume.  "Stop Making Sense" clips have been staples of Hot! Live! Music! posts for years on this post, so it's only fitting that we revisit a few here to honour Demme.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ordinary Batman

From the mind of artist Sarah Johnson comes this hilarious GIF series.  It's not often to can refer to something Batman-related as "cute," but here you have it.




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Amateur Dream Addendum

This is a rarity....a dream sequel!  A drequel?  When we last checked in on my amateur dream analysis, I was discussing an imaginary trip my mother (!) and I took to an Eminem concert at the Palace Of Auburn Hills.  I had a minor rehashing of this dream the other night, with only one new detail sticking in my memory.  My mom was wearing a t-shirt featuring Mekhi Phifer's face on it, only with a red Ghostbusters logo-style crossed-out circle around his visage.  The shirt meant, essentially, "no Mekhi Phifer," a la the lyric from "Lose Yourself."

No offense to Mekhi Phifer, but this is a hilarious idea for a shirt.  Should I get in touch with Eminem's branding people?  Should my mom get royalties?  I don't think she has any sort of beef with Mekhi Phifer, so I feel like she'd actually be upset about making money off this semi-insult towards him.  Mekhi, if you're reading this, an apology quilt may be coming your way.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

NBA Playoffs Predictions

I'm standing by my preseason pick of a Golden State/Cleveland NBA Finals since, while both teams have a couple of question marks, their top challengers also have question marks.  Makes more sense to pick the proven winners with a) a superteam's worth of talent and b) LeBron James rather than go with a team like, say, the Celtics without a true superstar, or one-man teams like the Rockets or Spurs, or "I'll have to see it to believe it" teams like the Wizards or Raptors.  The NBA is the one sport immune to the crazy upsets that dominate the sports landscape, though obviously the incredible can still happen (the Warriors had a 3-1 lead!) from time to time.

Warriors over Trail Blazers in five
Jazz over Clippers in seven
Rockets over Thunder in seven (due solely to Russell Westbrook continuing to be a one-man gang)
Spurs over Grizzlies in six
Celtics over Bulls in six
Wizards over Hawks in five
Cavaliers over Pacers in five
Raptors over Bucks in seven, but if Lowry and DeRozan have another slow playoffs, Giannis will eat the Raps alive

Warriors over Jazz in five
Spurs over Rockets in seven
Wizards over Celtics in seven
Cavaliers over Raptors in six

Warriors over Spurs in six
Cavaliers over Wizards in seven

Warriors over Cavaliers in six.  Finally, David West will have an NBA championship!  (oh, so will Kevin Durant)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Stanley Cup Predictions

* Blackhawks over Predators in six
It’s my preseason Stanley Cup pick against the team I actually think will win.  I went with Nashville in a Subban-fueled “wouldn’t it be hilarious if this backfired on the Canadiens so wholly” kind of way, which ran counter to my OTHER standard NHL predictions narrative of “pick either the Blackhawks or Kings until they prove their contention window is closed.”  While the Kings’ era is firmly over, Chicago is still running hot. 

* Wild over Blues in six
One of these two long-suffering teams will eat another first-round exit, and I’m sure St. Louis fans right now are reading this and thinking “THEY’RE long-suffering?!  We have over 30 years of heartbreak on those expansion clowns!”  Still, when you factor in Minnesota losing their first team and the North Stars never winning anything anyway, plus the state of Minnesota’s general sports malaise, the Wild and Blues are certainly comparable.  I’m going with the Wild since c’mon, throw Minnesota a bone, universe.

* Oilers over Sharks in seven
And really, both the Wild and the Blues are much worse off than the Oilers, who at least still have all the Gretzky/Messier-era Cups to fall back on, plus winning all those lotteries and having Connor McDavid fall into their laps.  Still, it’s been a lean decade for Edmonton fans.  I remember watching the Oil’s last playoff game, Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals, with various university friends, including my die-hard Oilers fan pal Ravi.  I literally had to send Ravi a congratulatory message after the Oilers finally returned to the postseason since, yikes, “lean” doesn’t really cover how bad this last decade has been.  Okay fine, Edmonton fans are also pretty tortured.  Let’s keep the good times rolling over the Sharks, who probably used up their rare bit of playoff luck by actually reaching the finals last year.

* Ducks over Flames in six
So the moral of the story is that Randy Carlyle is apparently a coaching savant in Anaheim but not anywhere else?  The thought of Carlyle returning to prominence is the dark lining around this silver cloud of a Maple Leafs season, so if Calgary wanted to pull off the upset, I wouldn’t mind at all.  That would also set up a potential Battle Of Alberta in the second round, which send Canadian fans into even more of a tizzy than they’re already in about these playoffs.  Five of seven teams in the running!  Way to drop the ball, Jets and Canucks.

* Rangers over Canadiens in seven
Original Six matchup, baby!  Some fun facts about the somewhat unheralded Montreal/New York rivalry: this is the fifth-most frequent matchup in NHL playoff history, so it’s probably not really “unheralded.”  They’ve met 15 times in the postseason with the Rangers holding a winning record (8-7), which is a bit surprising given how the Rangers had long stretches of mediocrity while the Habs won everything in sight.  With this in mind, and my pro-Subban stance from my preseason picks still in mind, I’ll go with New York to upset the Canadiens.  The Rangers really did catch a break in getting slotted into the much easier Atlantic Division bracket so they can avoid all the big dogs in the Metro.

* Bruins over Senators in seven
If I had to rank all 16 teams in order of how much I’d like to see them win the Cup, these would be my bottom two.  As fun as it will be to see one of them lose in the first round, it will be horrid watching one of them advance!  I’m so torn!  On a coin flip, I’ll go with the Bruins since it really hasn’t paid off picking against Boston sports teams these last couple of decades.

* Penguins over Blue Jackets in six
Both teams seem pretty comparable in talent but c’mon, there’s really no way one can pick a longtime mediocrity over the defending Stanley Cup champions.  “Jackets over Pens” just seems weird in any context, unless you’re gauging which is more useful to have on a cool autumn day. 

* Capitals over Maple Leafs in six
A Maple Leafs playoff paragraph is just about the last thing I figured I’d be writing back in October, but like many, I simply wasn’t prepared for Toronto’s onslaught of fantastic rookies.  I am wholly looking forward to rooting for MNM for the next 15-20 years.  Who would’ve thought that the revolutionary strategy of drafting actual talented players instead of “good Ontario boy” grinders would actually pay off with wins?!  Now, while the Capitals have a long tradition of playoff chokes, it’s worth noting that they usually don’t choke until the second round (good news for Penguins fans) and that they are clearly a few steps beyond the Leafs in talent and experience.  Still, I’m more than pleased with the young Buds getting some playoff time under their belts for the next step in their rebuild, which is maybe thinking about actual legitimate no-foolin’ Cup contention in….maybe two years?  That’s crazy to even think about.  In a year that has seen wild upsets and long title droughts being broken all over the sports world, a Maple Leafs Stanley Cup would be the most unlikely event of them all.

* Blackhawks over Wild in five
* Ducks over Oilers in six
* Rangers over Bruins in five
* Penguins over Capitals in seven

* Blackhawks over Ducks in six
* Penguins over Rangers in seven

* Blackhawks over Penguins in seven.  As a reminder, my preseason finals pick was Nashville over Tampa Bay, so I clearly know what I'm talking about.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Random Nonsense

Bill Murray’s “dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!” line is actually a pretty good description of Australia.

*******************

What’s cool about golf is that every player is just four days away from completely changing their career.  On Thursday morning, Sergio Garcia was an infamous underachiever, a choke artist, etc.  On Sunday evening, Sergio Garcia is now a surefire Golf Hall Of Famer.  All it took was one big week at a major championship to completely answer any criticism of Garcia’s career.  Garcia’s green jacket is the rising tide that lifts all of his many other career accomplishment ships (the nine other PGA Tour wins, the 12 European Tour wins, the Ryder Cup triumphs).

I admit, it looked for all the world that Sergio was going to blow it again during that final round when he started spraying the ball all over the course around the start of the back nine.  The Sergio of ten, five, maybe even one year ago goes on to post a 75 in that round.  This year’s Sergio, however, righted the ship.  It helped that Justin Rose didn’t pull out to a big lead in front of him, and nobody really made much of a charge coming up from behind him.  And, just to fully established the Fancy New Sergio, he even recovered to win the playoff after missing a Masters-winning putt on the 18th.  He’s unbreakable, this man!

Between Jason Day, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker and now Garcia, the “best player without a major” list has taken some gigantic hits over the last couple of years.  Somewhere, a hopeful Lee Westwood rubs his rabbit foot* and wishes that his luck can also turn.  Somewhere, Luke Donald just glumly eats a can of uncooked ravioli, knowing that his time has completely passed.

* = not a euphemism

****************

A hidden gem of an SNL sketch that never made it to air a few years ago.  This is a dead-on spoof of literally every talking-head countdown show, and/or every Listamania post I’ve ever published.


**************

If I’m a hired goon working in Gotham City, first of all, I probably leave town.  Why stay in a city with such a notable vigilante superhero?  Why not become a hired goon working in, say, Pittsburgh?  Not many DC heroes in Steeltown. 

Secondly, if I’m forced to stay in Gotham and take my chances with Batman, Robin, Red Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Huntress, Nightwing on occasion, I probably don’t press my luck further by working for a notorious super villain.  For one, they’re likely to have you press up in some type of demeaning costume to fit their gimmick.  Secondly, most of them are just as likely to kill you on the spur of a moment as they are to, you know, actually pay you or something.  These folks are almost all crazy.  Who would book a job as a henchman for, like, the Joker and feel comfortable about that decision?  In that scenario, getting arrested by Batman is probably your best-case scenario.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Bluthfighter

Ok, so Tobias gets Carl Weathers and GOB gets Tony Wonder (which is even funnier in the wake of the fourth season's plotline).  The other doubles, presumably, are....

* George = Oscar
* Buster = Lucille 2
* George Michael = Ann
* Maeby = Mort Meyers or Surely Funke
* Lucille = kind of a tougher one, maybe Gene Parmesan, Lupe, Barry Zuckercorn or just a giant bottle of liquor
* Michael = Uh, ghost of his dead wife Tracey?
* Lindsay = Uh, Marky Bark?  Tobias, but in costume as Mrs. Featherbottom?

 

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Undertaker

Since any nine-year-old would find his little brother’s interests to be silly, I initially scoffed at my brother’s burgeoning interest in wrestling back in the fall of 1990.  “This is stupid!” I exclaimed when watching the show with him, then “this is so ridiculous” as I watched another episode, then “gee, do you think Ultimate Warrior can beat the Macho King?” as I gradually got more and more into it.

If I recall correctly, my morph from skeptic to fan happened just around the time of the 1990 Survivor Series, which happened to be the event that debuted the Undertaker.  In a way, Undertaker was the perfect new character to hook a young kid who was really into comic books, as Undertaker was essentially a supervillain come to life.  Weirdly, even though Undertaker’s gimmick (a zombie mortician, basically) was about as over-the-top as it came, he also served as a bit of strange realism within the cartoonish wrestling world.  He wasn’t a middle-aged guy hamming it up as, say, a wrestling barber or a wrestling cop or a wrestling Elvis impersonator…Undertaker just showed up with no emotion, no B.S. and just beat the hell out of opponents.  While he was a heel who went after all our favourites, fans didn’t really hate Undertaker in the traditional wrestling villain sense; he was less a heel than a force of nature.  Once he finally turned face, the fans bought it completely since we were just waiting for an excuse to properly cheer such a cool character.

My pro wrestling fandom has certainly waned and waxed over all these years, but the one constant has always been the Undertaker.  He’s the connective tissue that has linked three decades of WWF/WWE (and by extension, all of pro wrestling) history.  Watching Undertaker in the ring against a new star like Roman Reigns*, in a match that took place last night at Wrestlemania 33, instantly serves to cement Reigns’ place as a notable figure in that history.  There’s no way to calculate this, but it’s possible that Undertaker has wrestled more major names in wrestling than anyone else in history.  The only contenders for that title are maybe guys with more international experience to go along with North American stints (i.e. Chris Jericho or Rey Mysterio) or maybe just guys like Ric Flair or Terry Funk who had even more longevity.

* = Reigns, by the way, is the guy WWE has been trying to push as its new top star for a few years now, except the fans just hate him.  It’s just a really weird decision for WWE to keep going to the well with this guy when there are several more overall talented people in the company.  Even if WWE took advantage of Reigns’ unpopularity by making him heel, that makes way more sense than having a top star who’s hated by 90% of the audience.  You’d think that “guy who retired the Undertaker” would be the perfect way to turn someone heel, right?

In a way, Undertaker is the perfect person to be the focal point of modern wrestling history since he encapsulates all that is good, bad and ridiculous about pro wrestling.  Nobody has been involved in more stupid storylines than the Undertaker, with the possible exception of his long-lost zombie brother Kane BUT, since Kane was himself birthed from a stupid storyline, Undertaker should get bragging rights by extension.  At the same time, Undertaker also has dozens of classic matches to his name, some of the single-most memorable bouts in WWE history.  His death-related gimmick has been so perfectly broad that it lends itself to both the ridiculous (a Buried Alive match!) and the sublime (who else can use Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave” as entrance music and live up to its inherent badassery?) 

It’s going to be weird doing my usual “move away from wrestling for a few months and then jump back in” routine without the obligatory check-in on what Undertaker is up to, even if his involvement has been basically limited to Wrestlemania-only in the last several years.  The guy into his 50’s at this point, and watching last night’s match, it’s verrrrry safe to say he could’ve or should’ve hung it up a few years ago.  Still, he certainly earned the right to decide when he was going to officially retire.  Maybe he wanted to make it an even 25 matches at Wrestlemania in his career, or maybe he wanted to retire in Orlando a la Ric Flair a few years back.  Maybe he respected Roman Reigns just SO MUCH that he wanted to pass the torch to….well, that can’t be it.

Pro tip: if you’re having a basement wrestling match with your brother, be sure to only deliver a tombstone piledriver on a pillow.  Trust me.  The doctor said I may have brain damage!  “Mark, what’s the point of this story?”  I like stories.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

The Fool

U2's new single!


....well, okay, this song is actually almost 40 years old.  Happy April 1st!  But wouldn't it blow minds if U2 remastered this rough recording and actually released it on a new album?  Why not?  It's not like they properly released it back in the day.  "Songs Of Innocence" was basically perfect as it is, but wouldn't it have been even more perfect if this random track from U2's actual early days was part of the set?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Other People's Writing


* An admittedly morbid but fascinating look from The Guardian's Sam Knight at what will happen to the United Kingdom (and really, the world) when Queen Elizabeth II passes away, and how institutions all over the UK have prepared for the sad day.  It ranges from BBC Radio already having their playlists arranged with properly sober music choices to, in fact, quite a bit of uncertainty since it's been so long (1952) since the UK has had to deal with a changeover in royal power.

* As someone whose parents have a weekly "Dominos night" (on Tuesday, for the two-medium special deal) and whose friends always order Dominos when we get together to watch Survivor, I've had more than my share of the pizza chain over the years.  Bloomberg BusinessWeek's Susan Berfield looks at how Dominos regained its foothold in the pizza market thanks to tech-friendly ways of ordering and delivery.  (Bonus points to Bloomberg for laying out the article to resemble the Dominos Pizza Tracker.)  There's also some focus on my single favourite ad campaign of all time, the "our pizza isn't good, we're changing it" that was so upfront it was actually brilliant.  Maybe I should start doing that.  Folks, this blog's content has been going downhill for years...

* Speaking of Survivor, here's a wonderful story from Good Times Santa Cruz's Aaron Carnes about how the show unwittingly formed a connection that led to Kelly van den Berghe (wife of Lex, from S3 and S8) getting a kidney donated to her.

* Oral history time!  Sportsnet's John Molinaro, my old pal from the Toronto FC beat, put together the oral history of all the club's ups and downs over their first ten years of existence.  (Specifically, it was about eight years of down and then the last two years have been ups.)

* A rare good article about Saturday Night Live from Rolling Stones, which a few years back published a ranking of SNL cast members that was so bad that the earth should've been salted so such a piece could never again grow.  This one, however, lets the cast speak for themselves, with various actors describing their favourite sketches of all time.  Highlights include learning how everyone kept a straight face during Chris Farley's Chippendales audition sketch, and that Christopher Walken's Continental was actually based on a real show.

* A profile of the always-fascinating Jack White by the New Yorker's Alec Wilkinson.  There's rather little about the White Stripes since the band is not exactly at the forefront of what White is up to these days, which is turning Third Man Records into a cornerstone for the vinyl record industry.