Sunday, July 14, 2019

David Mitchell

Since I posted a Lee Mack WILTY clip a few weeks ago, it's only fair that I give his counterpart David Mitchell some due, and what better time than on Mitchell's very birthday.

Between Peep Show, the Mitchell & Webb series, WILTY, and his various other appearances on other British panel shows, David Mitchell is a legend.  (Inexplicably, I haven't yet seen "Upstart Crow," so I really need to get on that.)  In fact, when you type "David Mitchell" into Wikipedia, his entry is at the top of the list!  He's become Prime Mitchell!

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The Runaway Elephant

A recent clean-out of my parents’ basement uncovered a great lost manuscript, a so-called Great Canadian Novel that scholars thought had vanished forever.

The book in question, of course, was "The Runaway Elephant," by yours truly.  Many literary critics considered it to be the finest novella written by any first-grader in the month of April 1988, though as the author himself, perhaps I’m simply a bit harder on my work.

I will reprint the material here, in flagrant disregard of the copyright laws set by my publishing company, the Edwards Press (Mrs. Edwards was my first-grade teacher).  It’s been over 30 years, surely any copyright claims have long since evaporated, and my writings can now be let free into the public domain.  While this may cut into book sales, I suspect that many audiences will still feel compelled to buy the print version due to its unique shape. 

Yes, the book itself is shaped like an elephant.  The tracing was, in a word, immaculate.  The covers were even laminated, which I’m guessing was handled by my teac….uh, ahem, by the Edwards Press rather than me, since a six-year-old with a laminating device just seems like a recipe for disaster.

We begin with the obligatory "about the author" quote on the makeshift dust jacket.  It reads as follows: "Mark is six years old.  He is in Grade 1.  Mark likes Ghostbusters."  I mean, minus the grade and with an updated age, this basically still sums me up right now.

The dedication page!  "This book is dedicated to my friend Matthew McConnell."  I barely have any memory of this guy, who I’m pretty sure only got the dedication since he was my "big buddy."  In my grade school, we had a system where older students were paired off with younger students as "big and little buddies" for various activities and play-day type things.  In my later years as a sixth-grade big buddy myself, I tried to game the system by selecting one third-grader as my little buddy solely because he was best friends with another kid whose big buddy was the girl in my grade who I had a big crush on — my logic was that since the little buddies would naturally team up in play-day activities, my crush and I would then be obligated to spend that time together.  Did my strategy work?  No, of course not, it was very lame.

The library card!  That’s right, there was actually a card envelope inside the front cover, so I guess The Runaway Elephant was actually stored in our public school’s library at one point.  If you’re wondering how many people signed this novella out, the card was blank.  Genius is never appreciated in its own time.

Enough of this preamble, on with the story itself.

Once there was an elephant.  Everybody laughed at him.  They thought he was silly because he didn’t blow water out of his trunk.

The elephant was mad.  He ran away, into the forest.

The clowns tried to stop him.  They ran after him, but they could not stop him.

But the elephant came back.  There was a show, and he wanted to be in it.

And that’s it.  That’s the story. 

I won’t lie to you….the premise is thin.  While blowing water out of one’s trunk is natural elephant behaviour, I somewhat doubt that failure to do so (or refusal to do so?) would make an elephant into a figure of public derision.  But then again, perhaps that’s why the elephant was so upset.  He couldn’t understand why a simple sidestep of a public norm would be such a big deal.  My central elephant character may have essentially been Larry David.

Clowns, naturally, know a thing or two about being laughed at, so it makes sense that they were the ones who were the first to try and bring the elephant back.  Their methods of doing this, however, were flawed at best.  Catching a runaway and distraught elephant is no easy feat, but simply running after it isn’t going to do the trick.  What was the plan when you caught up to him, clowns?  And what am I saying, "when"?  An African elephant has a max speed of around 25 mph, so unless one of these clowns is an Olympian in their spare time,* running is a fool’s errand.  Why not at least drive after it?  Cram 40 or 50 clowns in a car and put the pedal to the metal.

* = from a three-ring circus to a five-ring circus!  Rim shot!

The story’s denouement teaches us nothing about the elephant’s plight, unless the tale is meant to be read as tragedy.  The elephant cannot resist the lure of show business, despite the public mockery he must endure just be part of the circus.  It really is a grim parable about the dangers of fame.  Man, I was a smart six-year-old.

I mentioned earlier that my story received critical acclaim.  Just read these raves!

"I’m so glad the elephant came back for the show!  It wouldn’t be much of a circus without an elephant!" — Mrs. Edwards, who ENTIRELY misinterpreted my story’s tragic underpinnings.

"The book is okay" — my brother, as passive-aggressive as ever

"Elephants are so smart, they always do the right thing!" — my father, whose comment isn’t actually praise of my story.  My dad knows what’s up, he’s not going to B.S. his six-year-old by pretending that this mediocrity is actually good.  His statement, however, is far from accurate itself, since the Simpsons taught us that some elephants are just jerks

"I enjoyed your book, Mark.  I wish it could have been even longer.  Keep up the story-writing" — my mother, who goes in for the Oreo cookie style of criticism in mixing in some initial praise with questioning the brevity.  I mean, brevity is the soul of wit, Mom.  ‘Keep up the story-writing’ could also be interpreted as her being interested in reading more of my future work, or her implying that I can certainly do better than this. 

It occurs to me that I should have taken some screenshots from the book, so you could all bask in both the excellent elephant-shaped tome and my incredible artwork.  If you want to know what my drawings of elephants look like, imagine a grey shape that is somehow both a rhombus and a starfish at the same time.  So on top of being a great writer in my youth, I was also a burgeoning impressionist artist.

There will be no sequel.

Saturday, July 06, 2019


As you all know, my playoff beard was probably 80-83% the reason the Raptors won the NBA title.  After almost three months of growth, however, it was taking on ungainly proportions.  One friend compared me to Brian Posehn, and I like the guy's comedy and all, but....oof.

My mom was the only person who was fervently anti-beard, so I finally agreed to get it trimmed down to manageable status.  It was my first trip to the barber in 16 years, so perhaps I was a bit rusty with the instructions, but they ended up removing quite a bit.  Ironically, around 80-83% of my beard was cut, leaving me looking like just a normal dude who hadn't shaved in a week or so rather than a popular "hey, it's that guy" of a standup comedian and actor.

I had some karmic misgivings about the whole thing, but hey, the Raptors had already won the championship, right?  What's the worst that could happen?

And then Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers.  Who also had to trade for Paul George to convince Leonard to join, just in the case the NBA didn't have enough giant blockbuster moves within the last week.

I think all Toronto fans probably knew, deep down, that he was eventually going to wind up in Los Angeles, given that the rumors had been swirling for well over a year.  But it was still a blow in the wake of that dream championship run, and the increasingly logical case that the Raptors could offer Leonard to stay.  After all, they could just run it back for another season and contend for another title right away, whereas the Lakers (presence of LeBron and Anthony Davis aside) are kind of a clown-show front office right now, and the Clippers didn't have a second star to pair with Leonard.  Well, with Paul George in the fold, the Raptors' argument went up in smoke.  The NBA is going to be so crazily wide-open next year it's ridiculous.

And just so everyone is clear....once my beard lost to the clippers, Kawhi Leonard went to the Clippers.

Thanks for nothing, Mom!

Monday, July 01, 2019

Happy Canada Day!

It's July 1st, and I was actually briefly at a mall today.  So you know what that means!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Alas, Poor Yorick

Hamlet is already known as a literary masterpiece, to be sure.....

.....BUT, could it have been even better if Yorick's skull had talked back to Hamlet?  Possibly in a funny voice?  I'm guessing high-level anima-tronics weren't available in the early 1600s, but surely if any old high school can pull off a half-decent Audrey II in amateur productions of "Little Shop Of Horrors," surely Shakespeare's team back in the day could have rigged up some type of talking skull.

Maybe the actor playing Hamlet could've just operated it like a puppet, in the manner of Chief Wiggum.  Maybe the fifth act of the play could have revolved around a subplot where Hamlet insists that Yorick's skull can not only talk, but sing "Hello Ma Baby!" and other showtunes, though Yorick never does do when Horatio or anyone else is around.

I don't want to say I would've given Shakespeare notes or anything, but really, this kind of stands out as a missed opportunity.  So only a 9/ close, yet so far.

By the way, I will some day restart the Shakespearean play reviews.  Though maybe this should just be my whole entry for Hamlet?!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Lee Mack's Keys

Part of the appeal of "Would I Lie To You?" is trying to guess whether someone's wacky story is true or not.

The other part of the appeal is when Lee Mack is given an absolutely ridiculous story to sell, and he does his best to entertainingly explain it while everyone knows it's total rubbish.

This is the latter.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: I'm at my parents' house, and it seems like it's around midday.  I go into the main floor bathroom to wash my hands, but a quick glance at the mirror suddenly makes me realize I'm clean-shaven! My playoff beard is gone!

I leave the washroom and instantly accuse my mother of entering my room in the night and (somehow) shaving my face while I slept through the whole thing.  She basically just gives me a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and says "I guess it's a mystery!"

And then I woke up.

ANALYSIS: While I am an accredited dream interpreter and explorer of the subconscious, one needn't be an accredited dream interpreter and explorer of the subconscious to figure this one out.  My mom doesn't like my beard.  She has said as much to my face.  That is, when she has actually looked at my face, since she now basically can't do so without sighing or audibly saying "yikes!"  My new name around the house is also now either Wolfman or Wildman.

It should be noted that she is thus far the only one who has pooh-poohed the beard thus far, since the overwhelming majority opinion among friends, peers, and colleagues is that I should keep it.  Maybe with some styling, of course, since my sideburns were sticking out like I was some kind of Civil War general.  I figure at the very least I need to keep the beard until Halloween, since it has been pointed out to me that, when I wear sunglasses, I now resemble Randy "Macho Man" Savage.  All I need is a sequined robe and/or jacket with tassels, and I'll be rocking a great costume this year.  DIG IT.

But let's be fair, is my subconscious telling me that mother knows best?  Maybe she just needs to get a bit more accustomed to the look.  For her next birthday, I'll simply get several giant portraits of my bearded face placed around the house, so it will be inescapable.  No possible downside to this plan!

Since my bedroom door has a lock, the chances of an actual nocturnal razor attack are pretty slim.  Plus, let's be real, I'm not sure how I wouldn't wake up at some point during that whole experience.  Unless she were to drug me beforehand, but she would require access to everything I eat while.....hey wait....

I enjoy how this beard is still such a relatively new thing for me that I would feasibly go until the middle of the day without noticing it was missing.  While I may be an accredited dream interpreter and explorer of the subconscious, it isn't out of the question that I'd be able to miss something so obvious to the conscious mind.  I once mentioned to my buddy Trev that I'd noticed he'd gotten new license plates on his car, and he pointed out that he'd actually entirely new car.  What a keen eye!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Civic Title Droughts

With all due respect to Toronto FC and the 2017 MLS Cup, it had been an awfully long time since Toronto won a major sports title.  Among the “big four” (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL) sports, the Raptors’ championship drought ended at 26 years, leaving me wondering which cities/areas with current Big Four teams are currently in the biggest cold streaks.

Some of the geography is a mild but not altogether incorrect stretch, like when I count the Patriots for “Boston” even though they technically cover all of New England, or when “New York’s” last title was won by a team that actually plays in New Jersey.  And since we’re focused specifically on the locations themselves here, a team obviously can’t claim a championship won in a previous city — the OKC Thunder can’t boast about winning the NBA title in 1979.

Man, it’s great to see Toronto at the top of this list!

* Toronto, 2019 (Raptors NBA)
* St. Louis, 2019 (Blues NHL)
* Boston, 2019 (Patriots NFL)
* Oakland, 2018 (Warriors NBA)
* Washington D.C., 2018 (Capitals NHL)
* Philadelphia, 2018 (Eagles NFL)
* Houston, 2017 (Astros MLB)
* Pittsburgh, 2017 (Penguins NHL)
* Chicago, 2016 (Cubs MLB)
* Cleveland, 2016 (Cavaliers NBA)
* Denver, 2016 (Broncos NFL)
* Kansas City, 2015 (Royals MLB)
* San Francisco, 2014 (Giants MLB)(some SF fans will try to claim the Warriors’ as representing the entire Bay Area, but let’s cut Oakland some slack since the team is leaving anyway.  Besides, it’s not like 2014 was a long time ago)
* San Antonio, 2014 (Spurs NBA)
* Los Angeles, 2014 (Kings NHL)
* Seattle, 2014 (Seahawks NFL)
* Miami, 2013 (Heat NBA)
* Baltimore, 2013 (Ravens NFL)
* New York, 2012 (Giants NFL)(if you’re wondering, yes, seven years between titles is indeed the longest in NYC’s history since the 1920’s)
* Dallas, 2011 (Mavericks NBA)
* Green Bay/Milwaukee, 2011 (Packers NFL)(since the Pack are very much Wisconsin’s team, I’ll cut Milwaukee some slack here, since otherwise their title drought extends back to the Bucks’ lone NBA title in 1971)
* New Orleans, 2010 (Saints NFL)
* Detroit, 2008 (Red Wings NHL)
* Anaheim, 2007 (Ducks NHL)
* Indianapolis, 2007 (Colts NFL)
* Carolina/Charlotte 2006 (Hurricanes NHL)(ok, so Raleigh is almost three hours east of Charlotte, but if any Charlotte natives want to complain, just take the championship. It’s not like the Panthers or Hornets have ever won anything)
* Tampa Bay, 2004 (Lightning NHL)
* New Jersey/East Rutherford, 2003 (Devils NHL)
* Arizona/Phoenix, 2001 (Diamondbacks MLB)
* Atlanta, 1995 (Braves MLB)
* Montreal, 1993 (Canadiens NHL)
* Minnesota/Minneapolis/St. Paul, 1991 (Twins MLB)
* Cincinnati, 1990 (Reds MLB)
* Edmonton, 1990 (Oilers NHL)
* Calgary, 1989 (Flames NHL)
* Portland, 1977 (Trail Blazers NBA)
* Brooklyn, 1955 (Dodgers MLB)(I kind of hate parsing New York boroughs since otherwise I’d then have to get into acknowledging the Yankees as a Bronx team, the Islanders as a Long Island team, etc. But in this case, the Nets today and the Dodgers back in the day were specifically “Brooklyn” teams.)
* Ottawa, 1927 (Senators began play in 1992, and those jokers have NEVER won a Stanley Cup.  But the original Senators used to dominate the league, and a Canadian like me is happy to recognize those early Cup results.)
* Las Vegas, never (Golden Knights began play in 2017)
* Oklahoma City, never (Thunder began play in 2008)
* Memphis, never (Grizzlies began play in 2001)
* Columbus, never (Blue Jackets began play in 2000)
* Nashville/Tennessee, never (Titans and Predators began play in 1998)
* Jacksonville, never (Jaguars began play in 1995)
* San Jose, never (Sharks began play in 1991)
* Orlando, never (Magic began play in 1989)
* Sacramento, never (Kings began play in 1985)
* Winnipeg, never (the current Jets re-emerged in 2011, and the previous team existed in the NHL from 1979 to 1996. No, I’m not counting the Avco Cups from the WHA)
* Utah, never (Jazz began play in 1979)
* Vancouver, never (Canucks began play in 1970)
* Buffalo, never (Sabres began play in 1970, Bills joined the NFL in 1970 and were founding members of the AFL in 1960. No, I’m not counting the Bills’ two AFL titles.)
* San Diego, never (Padres began play in 1969, Chargers were in town from 1961-2016, those first nine years in the AFL.  Again, their 1963 AFL title means nothing to me.)

Monday, June 17, 2019

Diaz & Holt

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is already pretty great as it is, but if the show decided to entirely become a Dragnet-style deadpan comedy starring Rosa and Captain Holt, I wouldn't complain.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Raptors

I can't believe Leonard's shot in Game Seven actually went in.  I'm still vaguely in disbelief that they got past the 76ers altogether given how poorly the Raptors played in several of those games, but I guess it balanced since Philly also played like garbage for about half the series.

I can't believe they came back from 0-2 down against the Bucks to rattle off four straight wins and take the Eastern Conference.

I can't believe Fred VanVleet turned into the best non-Curry/Thompson shooter on earth as soon as he became a father.

I can't believe Kyle Lowry shook off all of the choking criticism by stepping up huge in Game Six of the Finals. I myself felt the Raptors could never win with Lowry on board, so I will grab a knife and fork and get to work on eating those words.

I can't believe Kevin Durant was injured for much of the Finals, since his cameo in Game Five indicated that a full-strength Warriors would've basically run the Raptors off the floor.  His injury is cataclysmic for both Golden State and the NBA as a whole going into the free agent season.

I really can't believe that Klay Thompson blew out his ACL in Game Six.  The Raptors were 100% losing that game against a healthy Klay, given that he couldn't miss a shot.  I don't even want to think about what a Game Seven would've been like, with everyone in Toronto dreading the worst and the Warriors playing with house money at that point.

I can't believe that Kawhi Leonard had one of the best postseason of any player ever, despite clearly playing with a bad leg.  It's true that Leonard is, at minimum, a top-five player in the NBA, but he might be next-level great, and the single best player in the league right now.

I can't believe that the crazy gambit of trading for Leonard paid off in such extreme and total fashion.

I can't believe that this team could be totally blown up over the summer and start a rebuild, but whatever, flags fly forever.

I can't believe the Blues won the Stanley Cup, which is off-topic, but I just so happy to see the loathsome Bruins eat an embarrassing loss.  Between the Bruins losing and the Raptors winning, best back-to-back days in Toronto sports history?

I can't believe that the twin karmic acts of trashing that Warriors hat and growing a playoff beard actually worked!  Who knew I had the power to end Golden State's dynasty at any time, if I'd just been more proactive about cleaning my trunk?  I may never shave again.

I can't believe that the Raptors are NBA champions, and that Toronto finally got back on the major sports championship board in such an unexpected way.  What a great win for the franchise, the city, everyone.  I'm blocks away from a major road, yet I could hear the cars honking deep into the night.

I can't believe it's not butter!