Friday, August 18, 2017

Steep Canyon Rangers, "Caroline"

"Hey, check out this cool new Steve Martin music video" isn't something I expected to be writing in 2017.  Hell, even "hey, check out this cool new music video" sounds dated.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: I’m starring in a CBS crime show along the lines of Hawaii 5-0 or Scorpion, about a tough cop keeping New Orleans safe from organized crime.  I’m not playing the cop, however — that’s some generic Josh Duhamel type of actor.  No, my role is playing the villain, a New Orleans crime boss known as “Largesse.”  My character is, essentially, Big Daddy from that Simpsons episode where Wiggum and Skinner become detectives in New Orleans, with a dash of the Kingpin and a dash of this other Simpsons character.  Okay, the added “dashes” are basically just physical appearance since I’m a fat bald guy, but stay with me here.

There’s also more than a bit of Boss Hogg in my character, as I play Largesse wayyyyyyy over the top.  Like, the actor who played Boss Hogg would’ve seen this show and thought “geez, that’s a little broad.”  I guess it’s not a strict CBS procedural since it really is more along the likes of Dukes Of Hazzard, with a recurring villain every week whose plans are foiled by the hero.  Weirdly, I play Largesse as never being all that annoyed by the constant failures of my criminal enterprises, and much more annoyed whenever someone serves him seafood for dinner.  Disliking seafood, naturally, particularly enrages the Duhamel-ian cop, who is a proud New Orleans native (New Orleaner?) and therefore adores the local cuisine.

The show seems generally popular, though the dream is weirdly non-specific about whether it’s a fictional scripted program or somehow a documentary.  Like, it’s an actor playing the cop and I’m profiled on Entertainment Tonight for my role as Largesse, though there are never any cameras or scripts around.  Also, the ET segment leads to a minor scandal since fans are outraged that I’m not actually from Louisiana, unlike Largesse.

ANALYSIS: I won’t like, it would be fun to just eat all the time, wear outrageous clothing and talk in a comically-broad New Orleans accent.  I basically do 1.5 of these things in my everyday life anyways.  The whole crime boss thing doesn’t really interest me, which perhaps is why my subconscious omitted the actual “crimes” part of being a gangster and why Largesse was never too bothered when Officer Generic stopped a scheme.  I actually don’t care for seafood either, and were I to be served seafood unasked, I’d indeed have an issue with it.  Largesse, at one point, is so irate that he knocks a waiter’s platter to the ground upon being brought a bunch of scallops….for the record, I’d never act so insultingly boorish.  I’d just say “sorry, I didn’t order any scallops.”  Simple common courtesy, Largesse!

I’d like to think of myself as a decent actor.  I performed in some minor shows in high school and university, with things going pretty well.  The jury is still out on whether I was actually talented or just “talented enough for some low-level student production,” but let’s just say that my real drawback was having some difficulty memorizing so many lines.  I can’t imagine how professional theatre actors are able to learn hundreds or even thousands of lines of dialogue in what is sometimes a short amount of time.  Perhaps that’s what I gravitated more towards improv, where I could always just wing it if I didn’t know what to say.  Also, my acting career may have also been stunted by my, uh, difficulties in auditioning.

"Largesse" is a pretty awesome name for a big, fat, extravagant bayou crime boss.  Good job with the branding, subconscious!

I’ve never been to New Orleans, nor do I have any particular desire to visit unless the Super Bowl is at the Superdome one year and the Packers happen to be playing.  Nothing against the city, really, just that I’m wary about going anywhere too far south since I don’t like the heat.  If I actually had to spend time in New Orleans, forget about Big Daddy, I’d end up like another shady Simpsons character. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Work Nonsense

My co-worker Ken and I were discussing movies, I mentioned some star, and Ken joked “I don’t know who that is, I only watch movies starring Glenn Close.”  To which I responded, “don’t be so Close-minded, Ken!”  Ken no-sold the joke, but come on, that’s some pretty great spur-of-the-moment punnery.


I’m just about the world’s most boring eater, which includes eating pasta with no sauce, oil or seasonings of any kind.  (Ok, some salt and pepper, but those are so basic that I don’t even consider it ‘seasoning.’)  Ken was a little incredulous, though I did assure him that I had SOME flavour in the form of that packaged cheese from Kraft Dinner boxes. 

K: But if you use the cheese for both KD and for normal pasta, don’t you run out of cheese pretty quickly?
M: Oh no, I have so much KD in the cupboard that there’s always at least one expired box in there.  So I just take the cheese from that and use it for pasta.
K: Wait a second, but the cheese is ALSO expired.  In fact, it’s the only thing expired due to the milk-based ingredient.  So you’re throwing out ‘expired’ KD noodles that are still probably good and keeping the actually expired cheese product.
M: ….oh yeah…..

And then we laughed for about a minute straight.  I am not a smart man.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Baroness Von Sketch Show, Uh, Sketches

I've fallen down the rabbit hole of watching material from "Baroness Von Sketch Show," a Canadian comedy show that absolutely hits my sweet spot of dry, goofy, slice-of-life observational humour.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Definition Of Comedy Is...

A 20-something dudebro who looks like a young Scott Caan strolls out of a No Frills, casually tossing a watermelon to himself in the air. He stumbles and drops the melon on the ground, smashing it to pieces. The dudebro proceeds to throw what I can only describe as a tantrum -- he tosses his hands in the air, actually stamps his feet on the ground and stamps his feet in a frustrated little pivot of a move.

I'm not saying this was one of the top ten hardest laughs of my life, but top 20? The jury is out.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Other People's Writing

That Jenny Slate/worst date item ended up morphing into an entire stand-alone post, so we're overdue for a proper Other People's Writing.

* The Ringer’s Katie Baker pays tribute to A League Of Their Own, easily one of the best sports movies ever made.  The real controversy of the 1992 Best Supporting Actress race wasn’t that Marisa Tomei won, but that ALOTO didn’t score at least two nominations.  (Lori Petty for sure, and flip a coin between Madonna and Rosie…if you could nominate a tandem act for one nomination, both of them).  Also, LOL at Debra Winger’s terrible reasoning for passing on the movie.

* A superb profile of Ted Leo by Stereogum’s Michael Tedder.  It’s the kind of profile that makes you absolutely root for Ted Leo and gives you a full and complete portrait of his life and career even if you (like me) know virtually nothing about his music.  I vaguely recall playing a couple of Pharmacists songs on my old campus radio show but no more.

* Vulture ranks all 213 Beatles songs, which I don’t really understand since I did the definitive ranking of the top 83 five years ago.  Doesn’t everyone take my posts as gospel??  Notable discrepancies between the two lists include No Reply (#74 me, #173 Vulture), Don’t Pass Me By (#31 me, #192 Vulture), Rocky Racoon (#38 me, #168 Vulture), Free As A Bird (#68 me, #206 Vulture) and The Ballad Of John And Yoko (#24 me, #179 Vulture).  Oh, plus there’s the fact that my favourite Beatles song, I’ve Just Seen A Face, clocks in at a mediocre 115th on Vulture’s list.  Infuriatingly, Vulture puts my favourite one spot below the melodic eyesore (earsore?) that was Revolution 9.  None of my top six songs even crack their top 35.  Why am I even highlighting this link?

* Vulture redeems itself with Boris Kachka’s look at the filming and creation of the Leftovers’ series finale, one of the greatest episodes within one of the greatest seasons of television ever made. 

* And just in case you think that’s it for the Leftovers material, you’re wrong!  I haven’t been able to get this show out of my mind for weeks, and probably never will, so these pieces from Alan Sepinwall still seem timeless.  Sepinwall, one of the show’s biggest critical champions, had loads of tremendous coverage ready to go immediately after the finale, including a great encapsulation of the episode itself, an interview with Carrie Coon, The Best Actress On Television (as is her legal name at this point) as well as an interview with showrunner Damon Lindelof.  The show ended perfectly, though I won’t lie, Lindelof’s casual mention of an alternate idea about the device being a Guilty Remnant hoax would’ve been pretty amazing.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Radiohead, "I Promise"

I guess if I posted 'Man Of War' a while back, I should also note this other unreleased Radiohead song from the OK Computer sessions.  (The third one, 'Lift,' has been played live before and is a somewhat well-known B-side, so it's not as special.)  I feel like this track was in competition with No Surprises and Let Down for the vaguely-creepy-sounding-version-of-a-pop-song spot on the record, and since I'm kind of sick of No Surprises by this point, maybe Radiohead made the wrong choice.

Also, in regards to the this the Radio Head?!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Worst Date

Jenny Slate recently recounted her worst date experience ever on a podcast with Sam Fragoso, who provided a transcript to Nylon.  It’s a pretty remarkable story, one so cringe-worthy that even the writers for The Office would find it over the top.  (Well, the writers from the Mike Schur era, at least.  After that all bets are off.  Good lord, “Scott’s Tots” is still just the worst.)

Anyway, reading this article inevitably puts one in mind of their own worst first date, and mine is pretty easy.  Now, to be technical, should we be calling these (both Slate’s story and my own) “first” dates when they’re actually the only dates we had with these people?  “First” implies at least one more, right?  “Worst” date, no question, but “first” is an improper usage.  Then again, it’s not like I get many second dates, so boo to me.

Okay, so my worst date came via an online dating site.  Let’s call the woman in question Sandra, for the sake of anonymity.  Sandra’s profile was well-written (big plus for me) with actual proper spelling and grammar (BIG plus), and we seemed to share a lot of common interests and a common sense of humour.  Plus, she actually responded to my initial message, proving that even a broken clock like me is right twice a day!

We set up a dinner date at a local restaurant, and we mutually arrived five minutes early.  Over-punctuality, nice!  All seems well until her phone rings as soon as we sit down, and she apologizes about “needing” to take the call.  I say no problem, thinking what harm could it be.

Anyway, this call proceeds to go on for at least FIFTEEN MINUTES.  I kid you not.  It seemed like kind of a heated discussion so I tried not to listen in, and thus the wallpaper next to our table got a good stare for the next little while.  (A quarter of an hour, to be specific!) 

Sandra finally ends the call and apologizes profusely, saying it was her mother on the other end.  Without wanting to be nosy but, feeling that the sheer length and clearly heated tone of the call demanded some acknowledgement, I asked what was wrong, or maybe even something as innocuous as “nothing serious, I hope.”  This led to another solid 15 minutes of her describing the issue at length.  As I recall, it involved her mother getting re-married, she and her sister were both co-maids of honour, and either Sandra supported the marriage and her sister didn’t, or it was the other way around.  You’d think I would remember a notable detail like that except I think by this time, the blood was pouring out of my ears. 

Now, we did manage to order in between the call and her extended rant, so at least I wasn’t sitting there starving.  But almost the moment she concluded her explanation about the call, the wedding situation and essentially a detailed history of her family, Sandra’s phone rang once again.  This time it was the sister calling, and of course, she just had to answer.  I once again say no problem, though by this point, I’d mentally checked out on this date about five times over.  This was another marathon call, even longer than the first.  Must’ve been easily 20 minutes, maybe even closer to thirty.  Sandra left the table at one point so as to make less noise (or perhaps to hear more clearly) in the crowded restaurant, and I could see her outside on the patio area, gesticulating away.  Apparently she’s the type that makes big sweeping arm gestures when talking, which I now discovered once she was free of the confines of this fine eating establishment.

On the plus side, the food was good. 

Once that call finally wrapped up, Sandra came back in, apologized again, and said we should probably call it a night as she had more wedding stuff to get settled that evening.  It’s worth adding that she seemed legitimately chastened about all this phone business and she was aware that the evening had been a bust, so it was pretty unfortunate.  She promised to message me on the dating site again once things were “less crazy” in her life.  I was lukewarm about ever getting that message anyway, though as it turns out, I never heard from Sandra again. 

“Mark, is it possible she made this whole scenario up, in order to get out of the date?”

First of all, gee thanks.  Am I that repulsive at first sight?  I wore a 75% wrinkle-free shirt and everything!  To address the question, no, this would take some pretty elaborate performance skills to carry on two elongated phone conversations, not to mention her whole story connecting the two in between the calls.  Again, this was easily over an hour of talking.  If you’re going to make up an excuse to get out of a date, you wouldn’t spend that much time backing up your story. 

So that was it, my worst date.  On my next date (which actually led to a relationship of over a year), my first question to her was “you don’t have a sister named Sandra, do you?”

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ranking The MCU's Villains

The most common criticism of Marvel’s films is their lack of grim, colourless anti-heroes wordlessly killing their enemies while burdened with unimaginable angst…oh wait, hang on DC fans, nobody knocks Marvel for that.  Basically the only issue with the Marvel films is their lack of truly memorable villains, which may be part in parcel of Marvel’s plan to actually make their heroes the draw.  Still, given that all of “Phase Three” and essentially this entire decade is building towards every hero in a showdown with one ultimate villain, Marvel’s spotty track record creates some question as to what we’re going to get with Thanos.  Will he be awesome and worth the “every Avenger needs to be on hand” hype?  Or will he just be a Macguffin of a villain?

While some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s foes have been pretty lacklustre, I feel like several have more than cut the mustard, hence this list to clarify things.  As a point of reference, this list comprises every “big bad” villain (or the biggest villains in cases of multiple foes) from each of the MCU films and each of its major TV series.  I could nitpick and add minor villains like henchmen or Garry Shandling’s Hydra-friendly senator, though for now we’ll just stick to the big headline enemies.  Some notes on my process…

* I’ve yet to watch the Iron Fist series, and I never saw the Edward Norton “Incredible Hulk” movie.  I don’t feel like I’m really missing out on either.
* Thanos doesn’t count since we haven’t really seen him in action yet.
* I’ll issue a blanker SPOILER ALERT for the list since obviously some of these villains don’t reveal themselves as villains until partway through the movies.  You shouldn’t be reading a list like this without at least a half-dozen Marvel films under your belt, duh!
* I guess this goes towards the SPOILER ALERT, but…I’m not counting Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin?  Should I?  I’m actually confused about that particular situation.
* Furthermore, some of these characters end up being heroes either later in the movie/TV season or in a later movie/TV season.  I’m kind of nitpicky about which ones I deem to be actual villains.  For instance, the Punisher is in opposition to Daredevil for much of that season, though I’m hard-pressed to really consider him a “villain.”

33. Ultron (James Spader), Avengers: Age Of Ultron
32. Anton Ivanov (Zach McGowan), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
31. Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace), Guardians Of The Galaxy
30. Johann Fennhoff (Ralph Brown), Agent Carter
29. Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
28. Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey), Luke Cage
27. Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), Thor: The Dark World
26. Eli Morrow (Jose Zuniga), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
25. Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), Iron Man 2
24. Nebula (Karen Gillan), Guardians Of The Galaxy
23. Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll), Ant-Man
22. John Garrett (Bill Paxton), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
21. Raina (Ruth Negga), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
20. Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
19. Aldrich Killian/Extremis/“The Mandarin” (Guy Pearce), Iron Man 3
18. Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), Doctor Strange
17. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), Iron Man 2
16. The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), Captain America: The First Avenger
15. Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali), Luke Cage
14. Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), Iron Man
13. Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), Luke Cage
12. Whitney Frost/Madame Masque (Wynn Everett), Agent Carter
11. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Captain America: The Winter Soldier
10. Cal Johnson (Kyle MacLachlan), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
9. Ego The Living Planet (Kurt Russell), Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2
8. Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), Captain America: The Winter Soldier
7. The Vulture (Michael Keaton), Spider-Man: Homecoming
6. Grant Ward/Hive (Brett Dalton), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
5. Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), Captain America: Civil War
4. Aida (Mallory Jansen), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
3. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor/The Avengers/Thor 2
2. Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), Daredevil
1. Kilgrave/Purple Man (David Tennant), Jessica Jones

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hooray For Friendliness

So I'm on the way home from work a few weeks ago and realize that I don't have any coins for the streetcar.  I pop into the nearest gas station to get some change, though the counter guy says he has no quarter, loonies OR twonies. This seemed like a blatant lie --- what kind of two-bit operation is this?  Actually, it doesn't even have two bits, so it's not even worthy of that low status.  Between a lack of coins and the ever-shifting rules about the bathroom key, you can never trust a gas station attendant, except for maybe that delightful Brent Butt.

Anyway, thwarted, I turned to the next person in line, a young woman in a University of Kentucky hat. (Not the most common piece of headgear in Toronto.)  She is able to make change for my fiver, except she's a quarter short.  Since I'm in a hurry, I tell her no problem and head out.

Fast-forward to a few minutes later, when I'm walking like a regular That Happy Cat towards the nearest streetcar stop.  I'm minding my own business when an SUV honks its horn and pulls up alongside me.  Instinctively, I put my hand over my pocket and reach for my mace.  Not the spray, but rather a giant iron spiked ball on a pole (it's a pain to hide under a jacket, let me tell you).  As I'm prepared to lay a medieval smackdown on this possible drive-by, who should it be behind the wheel but Kentucky Hat Girl.  She pulled over specifically to give me the final quarter.  I thanked her profusely and she drove away into the sunset, like a true hero.

This is just good samaritanism at its finest.   I was perfectly set to let that extra quarter go as a tip for providing me with change, but that didn't stop Kentucky Hat Girl.  Thumbs up to that stranger for the help, since my broke self needs every penny I can get.  Thumbs down, now that I realize it, to that gas station attendant -- he must've had a quarter after all since Kentucky Hat Girl got her change from the same place.  What the hell?!  He must go to Louisville.  I blame Rick Pitino.