Sunday, December 31, 2006

Radio Radio

Perhaps someone out there in the radio biz can help me out. Is there a reason why some random older song can suddenly vault back into frequent play on a station's playlist? I went about two years in my life without hearing Collective Soul's "The World I Know" on the radio, and now I've heard it about five times on different stations within the last week. Did Ed Roland recently die and thus radio is rushing to pay tribute or something?

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Pack are, Back

The great thing about being an NFL fan is that you never have to resign yourself to thinking that your team is out of it for seasons at a time. When a baseball, hockey or basketball team blows things up by firing their coach or front office, deals half their roster and does everything but paint the stadium seats a different colour, you can usually count on your club stinking it up for at least the next 2-3 years while it gets back on track.

Not in the NFL. The league's purposeful parity means that it's possible for a team to go from doormats to diplomats in a season -- hell, even within a season. This is why my beloved Green Bay Packers are having one of the weirdest seasons I've ever experienced as a footbal fan, and I'm on the fence about it.

The Packers can make the playoffs if they win on Sunday night and the Giants lose earlier in the day. If the Giants win, a bunch of other things need to happen for Green Bay to qualify. outlines the possible playoff scenarios and what each team needs to clinch, and I guarantee you will not read a more eye-glazing document all year (er, pretend it isn't Dec. 29). Nonetheless, the Packers bottom-line need to win to get the most unlikely playoff spot in their team's long history.

I went into the year thinking the Packers could bounce back and be a competitive squad after their dung heap of a 4-12 year in 2005. Frankly, they weren't as bad as their record indicated last season, and given that they had added some new young talent and faced a pretty easy schedule, I thought they had a shot at respectability -- maybe something like a 7-9 or 8-8 record.

Then they lost four of their first five games, and it became apparent to me that the Packers sucked. Not just "well, if they get a few breaks here and there they'll be good," but sucked. I look at their seasonal rankings (9th in the NFL in total offense, 13th in total defense), and I'm blown away at what a total mirage that statistics can be. This team can't create generate points to save its life, and the defense breaks down only at the worst possible times. Ahman Green is washed-up, the receiving corps is barren after Donald Driver and Brett Favre...

Ok, Favre deserves a paragraph of his own. As miraculous as it is that Green Bay is 7-8, they could be 10-5 and have a playoff spot wrapped up were it not for Favre single-handedly blowing three games with some of the worst passing I've ever seen. Favre is unquestionably one of the best quarterbacks in history, but that time is clearly past. I remember writing a Gazette column about how Favre should hang it up THREE YEARS AGO. Since then, Favre has done nothing but blow winnable games due to his habit of throwing the ball away. He's not "trying to make something happen," or "being a gun-slinger," like the announcers claim -- he's just making bad throws that get picked off. If quarterback talent wasn't at an all-time low in the NFL, Favre would be ranked near the bottom of the league.

Nonetheless, Green Bay started winning. To say they won ugly is an insult to ugly. Their last two wins (over the equally putrid Lions and Vikings) were two of the worst football games I've ever seen in my life. Because the NFC is such a horrible conference, however, Green Bay stand alongside four other 7-8 teams in a battle for the last playoff spot. The 'winner' of the spot gets the honour of travelling to (probably) Philadelphia and getting destroyed by the red-hot Eagles.

This is why I'm torn about Green Bay's success. Obviously I want the Pack to get into the playoffs, but for the long-term health of the franchise, it might've been better to see a total bomb of a season. Another 4-12. It would've gotten Favre to retire. It would've gotten coach Mike McCarthy -- who was hired simply because he's an old Packer QB coach and Favre literally said "I'm too old to learn a new system" -- fired. It would've forced the team to actually reload and try something new than to keep fooling itself into thinking it would build another championship team around Favre.

Instead, the fact that Green Bay came close will get McCarthy another year, and Favre will almost surely stick around again for another season -- he's also close to setting the new NFL record for career touchdown passes. And next year, with a tougher schedule and what in all likelihood will be a not-greatly-improved roster, Green Bay will be hard-pressed to match its .500 record from this season.

And on that fun note, go Packers!
"Really? Taft?"

Ok, this is a bit tasteless for the time being, but it's still pretty funny.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

TV, in hindsight

Instead of doing some big TV top 10 thing to mark the end of 2006, I'll just do a quick bit of opining about my favourite shows. Keep in mind that I watch, like, every show, so it's basically a year in review. And this sucker will be a long one --- I don't write a TV column anymore, so I had to blow my proverbial load somewhere. Editor's note: Ewwww.

* The Amazing Race. I watched the season premiere with some friends, and we clicked over just in time to see a father tearfully talk about how he felt as if he loved his daughter less for being a lesbian --- and his daughter, his Race partner, was sitting right there with a thousand-yard stare on her face. This was followed by another team profile of a pair of good buddies who were recovering drug addicts and (ohbytheway) male models. This was followed by a pair of Muslim friends, and about five minutes into the show, my friend Matt said in a voice filled with dawning comprehension, "These guys aren't going to be able to get on planes."

From that moment on, you just knew it was going to be a great season of the Amazing Race. The only disappointment was that the model-addicts won, thus making yet another season of the all-athletic male duo winning the game. I have high hopes for the spring season, however, which will be the first All-Star edition of the Race. Past teams like Uchenna and Joyce, Rob and Amber, the beauty queen team from this season will be back at it again. Goddammit, does anyone want to team with me for Amazing Race? I just need someone who can speak, oh, about five languages and can drive a stick-shift. And also maybe is a cyborg, so we can access Google Earth within their brain.

* American Dad. How did this become the best animated show on TV? I'm floored. The first half-season of this show was, to be blunt, god-awful. Between this and last season's indifferent Family Guy, I thought Seth Macfarlane was suffering from David E. Kelleyitis and hurting all of his shows by spreading himself too thin.

Anyway, AD has clearly hit its stride. It manages to combine the randomness of Family Guy with the more layered plots of early Simpsons episodes. The show has, oddly enough, already seemed to have moved away from its "Dad is a hardcore conservative CIA agent" premise and become a series of extended, but subtle, movie takeoffs. For example, an episode where Francine and Roger (Go Padres!) disguise themselves to go to an art show and create fake backgrounds for themselves eventually morphs into a spoof of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. It also featured a scene where Stan, the dad, is washed away in a river of semen, while yelling "I feel like Tara Reid on any given Tuesday night!" God bless humour.

* Big Day. Ok, so they're not all going to be my 'favourite' shows. In fact, this one kind of sucks. It's the ABC sitcom that is set in a real-time format (like 24) on the day of a couple's wedding. The show follows how the bridge, groom, families and loved ones prepare for the big ceremony, and everyone is going a little bit crazy. So yeah, anyway, sucks. The situations are pretty contrived and the writing already seems tired and they're only four episodes in. Jack Bauer should rush in and break some necks for daring to rip off his real-time gimmick. In spite of some funny people involved (Wendie Malick, Stephnie Weir, the guy who played Russell in Wayne's World), it just isn't going anywhere. Feel free to skip it until it is cancelled in, oh, about a month. Fun fact: watching the pilot, the lead actress (Marla Sokoloff) looked really familiar and it was bugging me that I couldn't remember where I saw her from. Then I happened to flip over to TBS for a Friends rerun, and there she was, in a guest role as Joey's youngest sister who was pregnant. My ability to recall trivial things is truly amazing. And yet, not attractive at all to women.

* Desperate Housewives. Yeah that's right, I'm the one guy in the world who watches this show. And it's good, dammit. This season has been terrific, in fact, with a good mixture of comedy, mystery and soap operaishness that is more funny ridiculous, rather than "that's retarded" ridiculous. It all peaked with the episode "Bang," which (truth) had as much suspense as any of the best 24 episodes. Fun fact: Teri Hatcher was recently voted one of the TV stars that looks the worst in HDTV. After years of Botox, she is apparently no longer real, nor spectacular. And just how friggin' disturbing is this photo?


* Family Guy. While American Dad is thriving, FG just kind of goes on its own, varying greatly from episode to episode. The recent ep where Brian takes Meg to the prom was one of the funniest in the show's history, but a lot of recent shows have been meh. The constant cutaways and dated references are as tired as me when I tried to follow along with Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod on Body Break.

Hal: With just a few miles of walking a day, your body will get all the exercise it needs.
Me: A few MILES?! I have a Toyota Echo! Walking is for suckers! I get exhausted running up the stairs to the fridge.
Joanne: Who let you on the set?
Me: Gotta run!...or, drive.

See, that cutaway wasn't funny at all. My point is proven.

* Lost. Sigh....ok, here's the thing. I love Lost. It's my favourite show. I'm one of those people who is totally hooked, who goes on message boards immediately after the episode, and will get into a discussion about theories and characters at the drop of the hat. This summer, in fact, when I was subletting my room, the girl who rented to me had a Lost screensaver on her computer, thus sparking a seemingly innocent 'Oh, do you like Lost?' conversation. I'm pretty sure we talked about the show more than we actually talked about the room I would stay in for the next three months.

That said, the 'fall season' of Lost has been kind of disappointing. What used to be the best ensemble drama on TV has been whittled down to the Jack-Kate-Sawyer and the Others show, with occasional guest appearances by the other 12 members of the cast. They really need to reunite the main three with the rest of the castaways, and quickly. It's frustrating that, six episodes in, we still don't know virtually anything new about the Others, besides the fact that they have a suburban village on the main island and they have their main base on a second island. I'm not one of those 'I need to know every answer NOW' people, but man, throw us a frickin' bone here. I'd like to see at least one of the central mysteries of the show (the numbers, the smoke monsters, the Others, the Dharma Initiative, how the castaways are all connected, the giant foot statue, who would win a bikini showdown between Yunjin Kim and Evangeline Lilly) answered before the season is out.

* My Name Is Earl. It's very possible that Earl will end up being the live-action equivalent of King of the Hill. Both shows move at their own laid-back pace, nobody pays too much attention to them, are consistently funny, and before you know it, they've been on the air for a decade. The trouble with live-action is, Jaime Pressly's face is going to look....well, Teri Hatcher-esque in a few years, so unless they write in a storyline where Joy gains that rapid aging disease from the movie Jack, you might want to turn your HD off for the 2011 season.

* The Office. Jim's back, and everything is all right. The Jim-in-Stanford episodes were good, but clearly missing that special Office chemistry. With Jim back, however, the show is once again running at full throttle. The hour-long Xmas episode was one of the funniest in the show's history. Adding Ed Helms to the cast was a great move, and his influence is already felt. My pal Matt tried to order "nagasakis" at the bar tonight (one part egg nog, three parts sake), and was firmly denied. Of course, this isn't as funny as trying to order a Nagasaki in a Japanese restaurant, but Matt is no Ed Helms. Sorry, Matt. You'll have to settle for being the next Bobby Knight.

* Saturday Night Live. Like a baby bird poking its beak out of its shell, I think SNL is on the verge of entering another strong period. Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler have more chemistry on Weekend Update than the Poehler/Fey team. The cast is free of dead weight like Horatio Sanz and Jimmy Fallon, and some of the new people (Kristin Wiig, Bill Hader) have been hilarious with an increase in screen time. The recent shows hosted by Alec Baldwin and Justin Timberlake have been two of the best SNLs in the last decade. The one thing that could put SNL over the top is the hiring of one new writer. His name? Me. My idea for a sketch about a rapping detective (I call it Sherlock Homeboy) has Emmy written all over it.

* The Simpsons. There's an old anecdote about Lou Gehrig that goes like this. The legendary ballplayer was nearing the end of his career, and his skills were clearly starting to leave him. One game, Gehrig made a decent but unspectacular fielding play to get a runner at first, and his teammates all made special effort to congratulate him in the dugout after the inning. After getting all that praise for making a routine play, Gehrig said, it was time to retire from the game. Well, that and the fatal disease that bore his name, but I digress.

Aged Gehrig is basically the Simpsons by this point. Nobody seems to even have the passion to argue that the show has lost its juice anymore since the point is so obvious. It just trundles onward, entirely buzzless, pumping out mediocre episode after mediocre episode until Matt Groening finally decides he's had enough. Even the good Simpsons episodes now are just good, and hardly great. Man, this was a depressing show to discuss. Let's move on.

* Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Oh good, more depression. I'll give Aaron Sorkin this. He has one aspect of Saturday Night Live mastered -- the inconsistency. SNL can go from wildly funny to mind-numbingly bad literally from one minute to the next, and Sorkin has brought that over to his behind-the-scenes look at a sketch comedy show. Studio 60 goes from brilliant to suck at the drop of a hat. This was never more apparent than in a recent two-part episode ("Nevada Day"), where part one was as good as classic West Wing episodes, and part two was like watching your puppy get punched in the face.

A wish list for what I'd like to see in the second half of the season...

1. For the love of GOD, stop making every plotline about Sarah Paulson's character revolve around the fact that she is a devout Christian. It's not just boring, it's also kind of creepy given the fact that the character is basically a total take-off of Kristen Chenoweth, Sorkin's ex-girlfriend. There have already been way too many episodes wasted with Harriet serving as some vehicle for Sorkin to vent about his beef with the religious right.

2. Let the female characters win an argument. This is a long-standing problem of Sorkin's, stretching back to Sports Night, where whenever Jeremy and Natalie had an argument, Jeremy was always right but only apologized when one of the other male characters gave him the eye-rollingly sexist "just apologize because even though it's not your fault, it's your fault" speech. For example, whenever Harriet and Matt (the Sorkin character, played by Matt Perry) get into a debate about their ex-relationship, or religion or whatever, he always ends up having the last word.

3. Give the good actors (Tim Busfield, Steven Weber) more to do. Give the bad ones (Amanda Peet, who isn't really 'bad' but just not right for the role) less to do.

4. Explain how, since SNL exists in the show's world, the 'Studio 60' show is a complete and total ripoff of Lorne Michaels' concept. They establish that 'Studio 60' is a cutting-edge late-night sketch show, cutting-edge could it be if it seems exactly like SNL, just set in Los Angeles? It might have been better to just pretend SNL never existed, like 30 Rock seems to be doing.

5. Make the actual skits on the show-within-a-show funny. Perry's character is supposed to be this genius comedy writer who writes basically every skit, but 90 percent of the actual skits we see are capital-L lame. It's like watching one of those sports movies when the actor playing the sports hero clearly can't skate/throw a ball/run to save his or her life. Mark McKinney has been brought on as a consultant, so that can help things.

6. Get the show renewed, since I still think it could be one of the best shows on TV, given time.

* Survivor. For a season that started with an unnecessarily controversial premise (divide the tribes by ethnicity) and a more subtly-lame casting call (most of the players were from New York or LA and had never seen Survivor before), it ended up being pretty good. I seem to be the only person who still gives a damn about Survivor, and dammit, it's still interesting! I think the show seems to be evolving closer to the social experiment that Mark Burnett originally had in mind, except that it's an experiment not in social structure but in game theory.

* 30 Rock. For all of the publicity that Studio 60 got, 30 Rock ended up being a much better take-off of late-night sketch comedy because Tina Fey actually knows what she's talking about. Except for Office, this is already the funniest sitcom on TV. This is also probably the best Alec Baldwin has ever been in his career. God bless you, Tina Fey. After a couple sub-par years of SNL, my longstanding crush on you has been renewed.

* Veronica Mars. Given the amount of network crap that the VM creators have to put up with due to the show's inexplicably low ratings, I keep worring that Veronica Mars will start to suck. Thankfully, the crap guillotine has yet to fall. This season's network edict was to put an end to the season-long mysteries that defined the show, and thus (provided VM gets a full season without cancellation), the 22 episodes will be divided into three mini-mystery arcs. This actually ended up being an okay move, since the first arc was very well put-together and has already tied into the second one. Given that last season's season-long mystery was pretty unsatisfactory and seemed to go all over the place, the shorter storylines may be a better long-term move.

So yeah, start watching the show. What more do you want? If you're a Buffy fan, it's basically a better-written, better-acted version of Buffy except instead of killing vampires, she solves mysteries. And Kristen Bell is gorgeous. What more do you want?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What If Jesus Was A Ballplayer?

Say, he and his apostles challenged the Cincinnati Reds to a game. One would naturally favour the Reds, but I'm sure many would pick Team Jesus due to divine intervention. But Jesus was the only one with (for lack of a better term) superpowers --- wouldn't the Apostles be terrible? Wouldn't they get their asses kicked by a team of Major League professional players? One man cannot single-handedly lead a team to victory, as Ichiro has taught us over the last three years. I could see the Apostles scraping out a few hits, since the Reds pitching staff sucks, but overall it would be a total rout.

Who's to say Jesus would even use his powers to help aid an Apostles win, anyway? I can totally buy Jesus letting his hair down for an impromptu barnstorming game in Cincinnati, but doesn't he seem like the kind of guy who would frown on cheating to win a game? He would do everything to help his team in conventional ways (and maybe unconventional, i.e. making the wine for the post-game party), but would draw the line at using his abilities to give the Apostles an unfair advantage. Homey don't play that, Jesus might say. In my world, Jesus is an In Living Color fan.

What living ballplayer would Jesus play like? Hard to say. Someone classy. I'd vote for Paul Molitor or Alfredo Griffin. Jesus wouldn't hesitate to stretch a single into a double or slide hard to break up a double play, but he would draw the line at spiking guys and stuff like that. If he was a pitcher, Mark Eichhorn. For some reason, I've always pictured Jesus as a side-armer. Perhaps this is why the guard pierced his side.

Jesus would lead the league in VORM (Value Over Replacement Messiah).

* = I went with this over the cliche 'Jesus leads the league in saves' joke, plus I'm pretty sure that the Pope is into SABRmetrics.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time Magazine's Person of the Year


That's right, YOU

"Who me?"
"Yes, you."
"Couldn't be."
"Then, who?"

That's some nice brainstorming, Time. This is almost as lame as the time they picked the founder of Amazon. How can the magazine go from the heights of picking Bono (only mild sarcasm) to this nonsense?

On the bright side, congratulations everyone! YOU are Time Magazine's Person of the Year! Unless YOU don't use a computer, which doesn't really tie into the article's thesis. Wait, how does this work again?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ze Oscars

We're in the midst of the movie award season that leads up to the Academy Awards, so here's my predictions on how the Oscar race will play out. Keep in mind that a) this is looking like the most wide-open race in years and b) I'm not that bright.

Dreamgirls, The Departed, The Queen and probably Letters From Iwo Jima are looking like the four locks for nominations, with Dreamgirls or Iwo Jima the current favourites to take the trophy home. Nobody really got behind Flags of our Fathers, but Letters seems to be getting a stronger critical reception, and it's possibly the Academy will want to award Clint for his rather ambitious double-movie project. The fifth spot is wide-open, and will likely go to either Babel, Children of Men, United 93, Little Miss Sunshine or Volver, but the fifth picture slot has gone to a lot of crazy choices in the past. In a perfect world, my second-favourite movie of the year (The Prestige) would get in, but that one dropped off the map seemingly as soon as it was released. Boo-urns.

There are a number of well-known actresses in the running, but this looks like Helen (The Queen) Mirren's Oscar to lose. She is cleaning house in the various critics' awards, has a couple of unsuccessful nominations to her name and everyone loves and respects her. The only competition could come if Jennifer Hudson's momentum continues and she gets a lead nomination instead of supporting. My picks are Mirren, Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, though this one might also be supporting), Kate Winslet (Little Children), Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal) and either Annette Bening (Running With Scissors) or Maggie Gyllenhaal (Sherrybaby).

The critics have favoured London's own Ryan Gosling (Half-Nelson) and Forest (The King of Scotland) Whitaker, but I'm not sure if either of these two can break out of their indie surroundings to win. Like the Actress race, there are lots of big names in the mix, but they're all hampered by a lack of a real buzz over their performances. Leo DiCaprio and Matt Damon were both great in Departed, but could also be considered as supporting in that film, and are competing against themselves with their starring roles in Blood Diamond and the Good Shepherd. Will Smith seems like a lock nominee, but nobody is talking about him for a win. It's also possible that legend Peter O'Toole (Venus) will be nominated, giving him a chance to win his first Oscar after seven unsuccessful nominations. If he gets in and loses, however, he will officially become the biggest losing actor in Academy history with an 0-for-8 record. It's very possible, however, that O'Toole will be too drunk to care.

My predictions are for Whitaker, Smith, O'Toole, Gosling and -- in the biggest shocker in Oscar history -- Sacha Baron Cohen for Borat. Don't laugh. He has actually won a few major critics awards, and he has more buzz than any of the other nominees. Given the lack of a big name in this year's race, he might actually have a shot to win, which would be easily the zaniest decision in Academy history. Ok, it's far more likely that someone like Damon gets the last slot and then Whitaker or O'Toole wins, but man, what I wouldn't give to see a Borat acceptance speech.

Just give it to Martin Scorsese. For fuck's sake, what else does the man have to do at this point? The Departed is the best movie I've seen this year, but it won't win Best Picture due to the violence, but there seems to be a consensus building that this is finally Scorsese's year. It would be nice for the Academy to finally erase one of the all-time embarrassing names from the "inexplicably hasn't won" list, especially in a year where Robert Altman (another name on that list) passed away. The one big wrench facing Scorsese is Clint Eastwood, who the Academy is ga-ga over like a frat boy over porn. If Letters builds momentum, Scorsese might get screwed over against by an actor-turned-director -- three of Marty's previous Oscar losses have come against Robert Redford, Kevin Costner (gag), and Clint himself.

Anyway, I'll predict the nominees to be Scorsese, Eastwood, Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) and Stephen Frears (The Queen). Much like the Best Picture race, the fifth spot is totally up for grabs. I'll say that one of the directors of the Best Pic contenders gets the final nod here, but his movie doesn't get the final Best Pic slot. I'll guess Paul Greengrass (United 93).

Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) will easily win if she ends up in this category, and it seems likelier than the studio would promote her for an Oscar win, rather than a probable loss to Helen Mirren. Hopefully this doesn't start a trend of American Idols in high-profile roles, since I don't think anyone wants to see Clay Aiken in the Liberace Story. Hudson will be joined by Catherine O'Hara (For Your Consideration, if the Academy can get past the fact that the movie savages them), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel), Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal)and either Abigail Breslin or Toni Collette from Little Miss Sunshine, or Lily Tomlin (A Prairie Home Companion), as a way of honouring Altman.

This category will be greatly impacted by the Departed. It's possible that Damon, DiCaprio, or Jack Nicholson will fall to this category, and there's also Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin (who actually supported in the movie) to contend with. I think Jack gets nominated somewhere, which would give him a male actor-leading 13 Oscar nominations for his career. As to who will actually win, I'd say it's between Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) or Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls) at this stage. The nominees will end up being Hounsou, Murphy, Nicholson, Michael Sheen (The Queen) and Adam Beach (Flags of our Fathers).

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Worst of Presidents or the Blurst of Presidents?

George W. Bush's presidency has caused many to consider him the worst president in American history. But I'd like to shine the spotlight on the eighth president of the U.S., Mr. William Henry Harrison.

You may remember Harrison from a jaunty tune in a Simpsons episode. It was the one where the kids have their Presidents' Day assembly, starring Ralph Wiggum as Washington. There is also a song highlighting some of the presidency's lesser lights....

We are the mediocre presidents!
You won't find our faces on dollars or on cents!
There's Taylor, there's Tyler, there's Fillmore and there's Hayes.
There's William Henry Harrison, ``I died in thirty days!''
We... are... the... adequate, forgettable, occasionally regrettable Caretaker presidents of the U-S-A!

One of the catchiest songs in Simpsons history, imo. Anyway, Harrison did in fact die 30 days after being inaugurated, thus making his presidency by far the shortest in history. Most historical studies that try to rank the presidents don't even include Harrison due to the brevity of his reign -- he gets the dreaded 'NA.'

The story of his death is kind of funny, in a 'he died' kind of way. Harrison died from pneumonia, which he caught while delivering his inaugural address. This 68-year-old, coatless and hatless man delivered a two-hour speech on a cold and rainy day, so it's no surprise that he caught the uber-sniffles. Say what you will about George W. Bush, but at least he waited over a year to almost suffer an ignominious death (choking on a pretzel), and he survived, dammit!

So three cheers for William Henry Harrison, the president who was literally too stupid to know when to come in out of the rain. In fact, you could say that it was almost like not knowing when to leave a foreign country that you invaded for fake reasons.....hmm, ok, well, maybe Bush is the worst president after all.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The "Storm of the Century"

When did London become home to a bunch of wusses? There was a lot (ok, a whole lot) of snow Friday night, but it was hardly worth massive school shutdowns, road closures, and everyone from the mayor on down running around with their heads cut off. What are we, Americans?

Fact: by, like, 11 AM that day, the sun was shining, the main roads were clear from both plows and constant driving, and it wasn't even that cold. While a lot of snow had fallen, it wasn't packed tightly -- I believe the scientific term is 'puffy snow.' My dad, brother and I cleared our driveway in less than 20 minutes.

In short, suck it up, London. Or am I just bitter since I never got a snow day* in all my years of schooling, and then one occurs on the first major snowfall of my first year as a non-student since 1984? Who's to say.

* = I recall getting a 'snow afternoon' once in grade school, which was kind of weird since that meant a lot of parents had to drive to pick up their kids, and thus risked their safety more by heading out on the roads. Even then, the snow wasn't all that dangerous. I remember my parents picked up my brother and I, and then we went out to lunch and even dropped by our dentist's office to pick up my brother's Patient of the Month award. Whenever you had a perfect checkup, you wrote your name on a piece of paper and dropped it into a birdcage. One name was drawn each month as the Patient of the Month, and then they received a small trophy. In all my years of perfect check-ups, I never received this honour. Now I'm old enough that entering the contest would look kind of pathetic. Damn you, random chance!

I love how my footnote is longer than the rest of the post.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

You know your anti-spyware software is pretty sketchy when....

....this is actually a part of the product's FAQ. I am not making this up.

Who is the most wonderful girl on earth? FAQ #029
Many people have guessed that she is my girlfriend. To my own bad luck, that is not true. But while she does not return my feelings of love, we still share a really wonderful and great friendship, and I am very very proud and lucky and thankful to be allowed to call her a friend. A friend who is warmer, more kindly, more forgiving, a friend to whom I feel closer to than any other. Even as "only" a friend (where "only" is quite the wrong word), Sandra Klass earns the title Most Wonderful Girl On Earth more than any other person on this planet. Dear Sandra, I love you, and your friendship means all the world to me!

I love this guy's passive-aggressive attempts to pretend that he's fine with just being her *friend.* Dude, she's just not that into you.

And second, Sandra, honey, run for the hills. Make sure the hills aren't alive with the sound of internet access, since it sounds like you have a cyber-stalker. And just to make it tricker, it's a stalker who is an expert in spyware.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Birth of a Euphemism

In 2003, the guys and I went to my pal Bryan's family's condo in Florida for spring break. The trip itself is worth a post of its own, as it encompassed two nonstop 23-hour drives across the United States, a drunken game of Risk, a car accident on the Bluewater Bridge and two of my female friends being propositioned by a pimp who needed "some new fillies in the stable," and tried to ply them with the offer of lobster.

But for now, we will merely concern ourselves with my bed. Specifically, my fold-out bed. The condo consisted of three beds, so with five guys in the room and only one bed that could realistically sleep two, the couch had to be drafted into service. The couch was judged to be the least-comfortable of the sleeping quarters, and so I was assigned that bunk due to the fact that I wasn't allowed to contribute to the driving effort due to my undeserved and entirely fictitious reputation as a shitty driver.

(I didn't mind, since I wasn't exactly eager to spend a six-hour shift on a U.S. highway. And I ended up having something of the last laugh, since I wasn't the one responsible for the aforementioned Bluewater Bridge crash. But, on with the story.)

So here I was, sleeping in the living room. As one would expect, the foot traffic around my bed in the morning was pretty large, and as a result, my bedsheets would often end up trampled on. One morning, someone stepped on my sheet after just coming inside from the dirty hallway, and thus a big brown footprint was left.

This is where the specific male mindset takes hold -- any women reading this post may shake their heads in bemusement, but every guy will laugh. Anyway, the guys saw this footprint (a.k.a. a brown mark on my bedsheet) and immediately turned it into a running joke of "Mark shit the bed." This lasted throughout the rest of the trip and for weeks afterwards.

Now, what is the reason behind this seemingly random story? I believe it was the impetus for the introduction of the phrase "shitting the bed" into popular culture. As in, "Boy, Melissa really shit the bed on that presentation," or "Jim turned in a bed-shittingly awful performance at quarterback yesterday." I never heard that phrase used before spring of 2003, and then as soon as my friends teasing me with it, I heard it everywhere -- by other people in different groups of friends, on TV, in the movies. I'm pretty sure I even heard the P.M. use it during a particularly heated session in the House of Commons (dramatization: may not have happened).

I think I deserve some royalties for this. Or, if not myself individually, at least my buddies from the trip. Who knows whose shoe it was that caused that historic brown mark on the bedsheet? That bedsheet is to modern slang what the Shroud of Turin was to modern religion. And, as it says in the Bible, Ted 4:12....."Everyone hath a price."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

On Notice!

8. The St. Louis Bar and Grill. Mediocre service, flat ginger ale, indifferently cheesy nachos. I expect more from an establishment named after America's most dangerous city. Where is the life-size animatronic statue of Stan Musial to welcome us at the front door? Where is Archie the St. Louis Arch, the lovable mascot who bears a possibly litigious resemblance to the McDonald's logo? Where are the waitresses dressed like the backup dancers in a Nelly video? In fact, where's Nelly? His career is basically over now, isn't it? Can't he be a greeter or something? Anyway, if you do end up going to the St. Louis, try the wings and ribs, since that's what they're apparently famous for. Perhaps I should've tried a bar's signature foods before I trashed them....ah, screw it. Avoid Pizza Hut, people! The burgers are awful!

7. Aaron Sorkin. Dammit, Sorkin, be more consistent! Why are some episodes of Studio 60 tremendous and others so eye-rolling poor that I want to eat my hand? Why are some of your characters brilliantly complex while others are as two-dimensional as Tetris pieces? Why are Matthew Perry and Steven Weber turning in career-best performances while Amanda Peet looks and acts like someone in her first day of drama class? There is only one solution -- Sorkin needs to get back on the drugs. They give him his power, like Popeye's spinach.

6. Rod Barajas. An excerpt from my upcoming one-act play, In Rod We Trust: The Life And Loves of Rod Barajas.

Agent: Hey Rod, I've got you a good deal from the Blue Jays!
Rod: That's great news! I'll totally sign that terms sheet!
Agent: Looks like we can put this one to bed. Yep, another successful contract negotiation for....hey wait! You signed it "Bod Rarajas."
Rod: Yeah, I had a total change of heart in the three seconds between saying I agreed to sign and when I actually signed. I'm not playing for Toronto!
Agent: Why not?
Rod: I'd be making less money than I did last year!
Agent: Do you know how hard it was to get you a contract at all? You're Rod Barajas! You're a career .240 hitter! You, to put it charitably, suck!
Rod: I don't care! See you on the flip side, you unsupportive bastard! You're fired! I'm going to hire Jerry Maguire!
Agent: He's a fictional character! God...I knew I should've stuck to managing that car wash.

And, scene.

5. Parking. I was up at the university tonight (more on this later), and since it was raining, I argued Dave into parking right by the Grad Club instead of walking across campus from a free lot. We ended up parking in the MIT building lot, where it cost over seven dollars for a mere two hours of parking. Seven dollars. It was like I paid for a movie ticket to a film called "Parking." Actually, according to IMDB, there was a movie called 'Parking' released in 1985. It was a French remake of Orpheus, except it was a musical and set in a parking garage. That doesn't sound like something I'd pay seven dollars to go see!

4. American college football. Man, all of those tempting possibilities for championship games and we end up with boring old Ohio State vs. USC? I was looking forward to seeing, like, Michigan and Rutgers battle for the title. Myself and some of the Gazette guys have been having a good old-fashioned e-mail debate over the last few days about the NCAA football system, and the overwhelming feeling is that the NCAA are idiots for not having playoffs. Yeah, I know, not the most original thought, but man, the masses have spoken.

3. Trivia. Ok, so more on that parking thing. For the last month, I've been competing in a team trivia event at the Grad Club with Dave Lee and some of his pals from the MLIS program. I'm technically not an MLIS student, of course, but 'ringer' is such a harsh word. Anyway, our team, Murph and the Orillia Stranglers, have won all three weeks that we've competed as a unit. Wednesday, however, our streak finally ended when we finished in third place. Frustratingly, for several of our wrong answers, we actually had discussed the right answers but overthought things and went for different options. It was a bitter pill to swallow. In our defense, we were beaten by a team of 10 people (while we just had five) and a team that included two guys that had to be pushing 70. We did pretty well considering we were outnumbed two-to-one and outnumbered in life experience by about two decades to one. So pour one for us dead homies, Team Murph. It brought back fond memories for me of the time I played Reach For The Top in high school, except this time, our opponents weren't all nerds.

Voice of Reason: Yeah, it was just the opponents who were the nerds.

Shut up, Voice of Reason!

2. Glenn Beck. Boy, do I hate this guy. Did CNN Headline News look at their lineup and say. "Hmm, what we need is a little more Fox News-esque brain-dead conservatism. It's time to Beck it up!" My favourite Glenn Beck moment is a tie between the time accused the movie Happy Feet of being "leftist environmental propaganda," and the time he said to a Muslim congressman "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way." That's some great journalism. Tune in tomorrow, when Glenn attacks Bambi for giving the NRA a bad name, and when he asks Lance Bass to take an AIDS test before appearing on the show.

1. Bears! Namely, the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots. Had they managed to make their 17-13 nailbiter on Sunday just a wee bit closer (i.e. within three points either way), I would've won 64 bucks on ProLine. After the Bears got a crucial interception within the last two minutes, I said "My fate is in the hands of Rex Grossman." On literally the next play, Grossman threw an interception and the Pats got the ball back to ice the game. God. Remember last year, when (the admittedly pretty bad) Kyle Orton had led the Bears to something like a 9-1 record but the coach switched to Grossman because he felt he was an upgrade at quarterback? The Bears are 9-2 now, and Grossman is playing like my 85-year-old grandma. Actually, my grandma just had cataract surgery, so even she could spot receivers better than Grossman can. I think it's time to give Orton another shot. OR-TON! OR-TON! OR-TON! No, I'm not just bitter because Grossman cost me money! OR-TON! OR-TON! OR-TON!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Wind It Up

I'm curious as to the origins of Gwen Stefani's new song. It has to be a case where Gwen lost some type of bet to one of the No Doubt guys, with the stakes being that the loser had to craft a song out of the lamest sample possible and release it as a single. I'll bet ND guy predicted the Democrats would win both houses of Congress, while Gwen just predicted them to win the House. Yeah, I'm sure that was it.

Anyway, the No Doubt guy picked the Sound of Music riff, since by this point, he and his bandmates have to be openly trying to sabotage Gwen's solo career. Gwen grits her teeth and brings in Pharrell to try and salvage a few corn niblets from this turd, but nothing doing. You win this round, No Doubt bandmember. For those scoring at home, this makes it Gwen 52984, Rest of No Doubt 2.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Commentary on DVD commentaries

There are few things as consistently shitty in movies (I want to say in life, but that's a pretty broad spectrum) than DVD commentaries. For all of the time that studios put into DVD releases nowadays, why do most commentaries seem to have the applied effort of a hungover physics student writing a practical exam? The directors-actors-writers rarely have interesting things to say, there are more awkward pauses than during one of my dates, and there is an odd air of tension over the proceedings. It's almost as if you can feel the fact that most of the people would rather be doing anything than recording commentary about a movie that they may or may not hate or have become totally sick of after having it consume their lives for months at a time. When something is so dull that a filmmaker or actor (the most egotistical creatures known to man) doesn't want to talk about themselves, you know you have a loser.

Notable exception to this rule: Roger Ebert. His commentary on Citizen Kane is about as good as the movie itself. Apparently, Ebert has given lectures where he and an audience have literally broken down Kane shot-for-shot over a period of a few days, so the man knows his shit. Hopefully he continues his practice after his body recovers from exploding.

Anyway, notable moments in the history of the DVD commentary....

* Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David's commentaries for Seinfeld, which are disappointing to the extreme. If you took a shot every time one of them went "Which episode is this?" or "Oh, this was a good one," you'd be dead. The Seinfeld commentaries are somewhat redeemed by the cast commentaries, which feature Michael Richards saying maybe three words in total, and all in somewhat crush-esque praise of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Good thing she's not black, or else Richards would've apparently had more to say. I always thought Kramer's puffy hair was shaped like a Klan mask.

* The Coen Brothers had a 'film historian' do an Ebert-style commentary track on their movie Blood Simple that simply made everything up. For example, "the opening scene was shot upside down with the actors reading their lines backwards, then everything was switched in post-production."

* Any time the cast or crew gets drunk while doing the commentary. Proud examples of this include Boogie Nights, Eurotrip, and Stifler and Ashton Kutcher during Dude, Where's My Car?

* Bob Odenkirk and David Cross recorded a commentary on their commentary for the Mr. Show DVDs. Their commentary-commentary almost entirely consisted of comments like "Boy, that was an insightful fact, Dave!" "Thanks Bob!"

* The Simpsons' DVD commentaries by Matt Groening and various writers and actors. These are so wonderful and so clearly show that these people love and respect their work that I can't believe Simpsons has been so dull for the last 5-6 years.

* Speaking of the Simpsons, Seth Macfarlane did a set of Family Guy commentaries entirely as Stewie and Brian.

* Any Kevin Smith DVD commentary, since the whole thing breaks down into he and his cast just ripping on each other. I love Kevin Smith. I think I would pay into the three figures for him, Jason Mewes, Jason Lee and company to record a series of commentaries for a Ben Affleck box set.

* The commentary for This Is Spinal Tap. The three guys do the commentary in-character, claiming that Marty DiBergi (director of the documentary-within-the-film, played by actual director Rob Reiner) intentionally made them look silly, and that scenes were taken out of context. Of course, their explanations of these contexts is even funnier.

CON: When you add someone to your friends list, you're somewhat obligated to add a detail about how you know them, and Facebook provides a list of about a dozen options. These options are both broad and limiting at the same time. For example, you could use the 'I went to college with so-and-so' for everyone, since the majority of Facebookers are your fellow students. Some people who are closer friends take up literally 9-10 of the options. The trick is finding the one thing to essentially sum up your relationship with a person when you have a couple of possible options. It could be social destruction to choose the wrong thing.

For example, say an ex lists you as friends through 'college' or 'we travelled to Mexico together' or 'we were both in the band.' Totally ignoring the 'we used to date' option. What do you make of this? A purposeful revision of the past? A desire to remember the good times rather than the bad? One could drive themselves mad wondering about the possibilities. Or, they could learn the answer to those questions and more by turning in next week on Soap.

Then again, this is assuming people care who's on their Facebook friends list. I have people I can't stand, people I have met maybe once, and people I've never met on my friends list just because I'm too much of a wuss to delete them or deny the claim. There should be a second layer of Facebook relationship -- can't some people be acquaintances, instead of full-blown friends? This will come back to hurt someone in a court case some day.

"Ok, Mr. Jones, you claimed you didn't know the victim very well. Then why were you on his Facebook Friends list?!"
"I swear, I met him once at a party! We talked for maybe five minutes!"
"Did you talk about stabbing him to death with a sharpened copy of a Boyz II Men album?"
"No, I swear!"
"Aha! 'I Swear' is a Boyz II Men track! I rest my case!"

PRO: Ever since Facebook decided to add 100 new features that turned the site from a nice way to catch up with people into a semi-creepy stalker site, I must admit it's made it very easy to keep track of people's lives. I'll admit it -- I'm very self-absorbed. I can't remember the particulars of your damn life. I can barely remember if I'm wearing boxer shorts or not. p.s. At the moment? Not. (pajama bottoms)

The most useful part is the relationship tracker. When a person is dating someone else, they can announce it to the world with 'So-and-so is in a relationship,' complete with a little heart icon. You can also make it say who you're specifically in a relationship with, though I've always been suspicious of the folks who don't do this. The probable reason is that they simply want to keep some privacy (what suckers), or their partner doesn't have a Facebook account, but my conspiracy theory is that it's a good way to weed out who is secretly unhappy with their dating life. Doesn't this sound like the kind of tiny thing that often sets off huge fights between couples?

"Hey, why don't you say you're in a relationship with me? I have a Facebook account."
"I dunno."
"What, are you ashamed of dating me?"
"What? No, I just didn't put it."
"Oh, what, you're really mad about this?"

And....scene. I sure used the word 'what' a lot. I'm like Steve Austin circa 2001.

Anyway, when a relationship ends, Facebook is ready for that too. The caption goes up "So-and-so is no longer in a relationship," complete with a hilariously blunt little broken-heart icon. On the plus side, this means I can keep track of who's dating who so I can avoid those unfortunate moments when I ask how someone's relationship is going, only to find out they broke up weeks ago. Publicly displaying one's painful emotional separation may be traumatic and embarassing, but look on the bright side -- at least it spares me some minor awkwardness.

NOT SURE IF IT IS A PRO OR CON: Back to the relationship status again. You can pick if you're dating, or if you're single. This should be enough, but there's also a broader range for what you're "looking for." This is normally fine and would be a pro, but then I found out my little cousin is into 'random play.' Good lord.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's a bird, it's a plane....

Your results:
You are Superman

Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

You know you watch too much Lost when.... start having dreams about the show. I had an incredibly vivid dream last night about Sawyer remembering details from a murder from his past, and then (in a Usual Suspects-esque leap of recognition) suddenly realizing that the Others were responsible for it. It would've been a hell of an episode, if I could remember the details -- and, if I could acquire a job on the Lost writing staff within the next week so the plot could fit into current continuity.

For the record, Sawyer was totally dressed and was not in any type of sexually explicit situation whatsoever. So, I want to make this clear -- I was not 'dreaming about Sawyer' in that way. I save those kinds of dreams for Hurley. What?

Thursday, October 19, 2006


At Sarah's request, here's a fucking post. Enjoy!

The new Killers album is good, and I'm not really understanding the two main criticisms of the disc -- i.e. it sounds too overblown, nothing like Hot Fuss, and the Killers are aping Bruce Springsteen.

WTF? The only semi-Springsteenish song on the album is This River is Wild, and that's mostly in the piano outro. If there's ever a singer less suited to imitate Springsteen, it's Brandon Flowers. If anything, I thought he was trying to sing like Bono and stretch his voice about an octave higher than it's meant to go (Bono didn't really learn how to actually sing until U2 had already released three albums).

As for the others, I thought it sounded like Hot Fuss, and hell yeah it's overblown -- it's the frickin' Killers. That's like calling out Jack White for having guitar feedback in his songs.

Anyway, thumbs up to Sam's Town, and I've also got the new Elton John song on the shelf waiting to be listened to. I'm taking my mum to Elton John's show here in London as a birthday present for her, which shoots me high in the ranking for Best Son Ever competition.

The Departed was so good it made me want to speak in a Boston accent and shoot someone in the head. Really, Academy, just give Martin Scorsese an Oscar. Can we STOP this cruel game! And allow the boy to keep ONE shred of diginity! For God's sake, I can't STAND to see him in all this pain!! You VICIOUS BASTARDS!! Let him win an Oscar!! Is it so bad to see somebody happy?! So just let him win an Oscar!! For the LOVE OF GOD, let the boy move in with you!! Good Lord!!

Sorry, my inner Chris Farley took over there for a second. Keep me away from any cocaine just to be safe.

I'm going to a Halloween party next week. Any costume ideas? The current favorite is Locke from Lost.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A hat, and a bat, and the umpire's call

So, my internship is at an end (aside from a couple more spare assignments to finish), and I've got to say, it was a blast from start to finish. What would be better than watching baseball games and being paid to write articles about them and/or the players involved wherein? It was truly a summer to remember forever [/Wonder Years voice].

As far as a post-mortem on the Blue Jays season, I have just one statistic. With me in attendance, the Jays were 42-24. Without me in attendance, they are 41-50 through Tuesday. Forget injuries, subpar pitching, or anything else -- it was all me, baby.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Toque No More

This is a sad day. I may have lost my beloved gray-and-black toque.
Here is a picture of me in the toque.

Ok, that's actually a picture of Will Ferrell dressed as John Rocker. It turns out I don't have a picture of myself in my toque, which is sort of like Gwyneth not having a picture of herself and Apple. Nevertheless, it's still a pic of a guy in a hat.

My toque was purchased after an exhaustive search that was made all the more exhaustive for a somewhat dumb reason. I thought the Edge's sort-of-tight-but-still-comfortable style of toque was pretty stylish, so I looked for one of my own. As a fellow bald guy, the Edge is certainly qualified to act as my style maven. It is only the second time that I have borrowed a style tip from a rock star, after that time I wore the same colour shoelaces as the drummer for Zuckerbaby.

Where is my toque? I have a feeling I may have left it in one of four places.

* The bathroom at the Huron Market Place theatre. I was there last Saturday, and I know I was wearing my toque on that night. It's possible I left it on the counter while washing my hands.
* The bathroom at the Chapters across from Masonville Mall. I think I had some kind of toque on that night, but I'm not certain of which one it was. Incidentally, I'm sure you're wondering why I always have my toque on in the first place when I'm in the bathroom, or why I don't just put it in my pocket before I enter. This is one of those unanswerable questions in life, akin to why George Costanza takes off his shirt to use the toilet.
* In some random pocket of a sweater or coat.
* Place D, which is the random place that all lost clothes go. It is a mystical world full of lollipop buses and marshmallow police officers.

In the meantime, I will have to get by with my Buffalo Bills toque, my Green Bay Packers toque (ah, public shame) or my toque that used to belong to my dad and bears the initials of the Ontario High School Teacher's Union. If I wear it in public, I run the risk of some conservative douchebag trying to hurl a Mike Harris insult at me, but I learned long ago that anyone who thinks Mike Harris was a good premier isn't worth listening to about politics.

So if this is the last time we meet again, farewell, my unintended. I'm sure we will meet again in the afterlife, provided that heaven gets chilly at night and requires toques. Since my vision of heaven is a lot like northern Ontario minus the mosquitoes, things look good that we shall meet again.

Monday, September 11, 2006

On Notice!

8. After spending close to three hours playing poker at the Brantford Casino, I ended up negative 15 dollars. I blame Ben Affleck, somehow.

7. Why is half the highway under construction? Why is the area between Oakville and Mississauga as congested as U2's Last Night On Earth video? Why is there a 401, 402, 403 and 407, but not a 404, 405 or 406? These are the questions caused by my madness.

6. My dad picked up Arizona Iced Tea for the first in forever, since Costco stopped carrying it years ago. I was a major fan back in the day, but upon opening a can for a cool sip today, I felt....pretty meh. It tasted kind of flat. Has the Arizona Iced Tea company fallen on hard times, or had its original recipe stolen by Germans?

5. So I'm sitting in a theatre watching Pirates II, and the belt I'm wearing literally snaps. In my defense, the belt was really old and frayed, but man....who else does lunacy like this happen to?

4. The ship has sunk.

3. Lead singer Brandon Flowers said in a recent MTV News interview that their upcoming album is one of the best discs in the last 20 years. Given how that timeframe includes not just loads of great discs from the likes of U2, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, etc., it also includes Too Legit To Quit. Keep trying, Flowers!

2. Specifically, the Chicago Bears. They pounded the hell out of my Packers, and...oh, who am I kidding? It was Green Bay's fault for fielding such a horrific team. I am in for a rough football season.

1. So yeah, check out my new MySpace page!

Saturday, September 09, 2006


My predictions for the already-started NFL season...

AFC East
Patriots, Dolphins, Jets, Bills

AFC South
Colts, Jaguars, Texans, Titans

AFC West
Broncos, Chargers (WC), Chiefs, Raiders

AFC North
Ravens, Steelers (WC), Bengals, Browns

NFC East
Giants, Redskins (WC), Eagles, Cowboys

NFC South
Panthers, Bucs (WC), Falcons, Saints

NFC West
Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams, 49ers

NFC North
Bears, Vikings, Packers, Lions

Super Bowl is Panthers over the Patriots

Monday, September 04, 2006

Idlewild and Hootie

Outkast are one of the few rap acts I genuinely enjoy, and their new album (a soundtrack for their film Idlewild) is, unsurprisingly, genuinely fun. It's not quite what I expected, since given the film is a period piece set in the Depression, I kind of expected more of a 1930's feel to the music. Sort of like hip-hop, but with more of a classic jazzy feel to it. A few tracks are tinged with a ragtime feel, but overall it's basically a hip-hop album that is taken in a lot of weird musical places. So, basically, it's an Outkast album.

I submit that Big Boi is the more talented of the Outkast duo. Here's my take on it, and since Outkast are from Atlanta, I'll stick to Atlanta sports metaphors. Andre 3000 is like Michael Vick. Immensely talented and capable of bursts of genius (Hey Ya = leading his team to the first ever playoff win by a road team at Lambeau Field), but seemingly unable to fully bring everything together for a complete season/album. Big Boi, on the other hand, is Tom Glavine. Nobody will ever get too excited about Tom Glavine, and attention is often drawn to his more unique teammates like John Smoltz or Greg Maddux. But when push comes to shove, he's consistent day in and day out, and in his own way, is just as creative and 'out there' as his counterpart. I found the Big Boi songs to be generally more interesting than Andre's on Idlewild, though this disc doesn't have the direct split between the duo that Speakerboxx/Love Below did. Frankly, there are so many co-authors and co-producers on songs that you could argue that Idlewild is more akin to 'Outkast & Friends.'

Favorite song after one listen: Call The Law

I also recently got Panic! At The Disco's album (meh) and a Hootie greatest hits album, which I enjoyed immensely. Goddamn, Hootie were a good band. Why did everyone suddenly decide they sucked about halfway through 1996? They were even responsible for the most dated episode of Friends ever, when the gang are all excited about tickets to a Hootie concert. Seeing that episode now is like seeing an episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show where Dick refers uses outdated racial terms. (If any such episodes existed. I don't think the DVD Show often dealt with the burgeoning racial issues of the day.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006


First off, who picked Tiger Woods to win the PGA by five shots? THIS GUY.

I've been in the midst of an e-mail battle about the CFL between some of the Gazette lads, and the basis of the argument is this: the CFL sucks. On the anti- side is Ravi, a native Edmontonian, rabid Eskimos booster and possibly the only CFL fan on the Western campus. Also, kind of on Ravi's side is Denomme, who argues that hating the CFL is somewhat un-Canadian.

I hate the CFL. I think it is a complete waste of time. I have not watched more than five minutes of a CFL game since the days when Rocket Ismail wore Argos blue. I have no particular bias against minor league sports (since I love minor league baseball), but the CFL and the incessant hype of it on TSN makes my skin crawl. For example, at least minor league baseball has no illusion that it's important -- it's got frickin' minor league right in the name. But the CFL has idiots like Dave Schultz who pretend it's the most major sport on earth. I find it hard to be interested in someone like a Milt Stegall when he would be hard-pressed to be the fifth receiver on most NFL clubs.

As for the patriotic aspect, well, part of being a Canadian is being cool with shame. An American has it drilled into their heads since birth that "America is the greatest country in the world," and thus many USAers have to defend various parts of their national heritage (the non-metric system, the right to bear arms, pointless wars in Iraq) because they feel that what they do is right because they're number one. Not in Canada. We're ok with admitting that some things are just kind of silly and letting them be. It is this humility that makes us awesome, not actually saying we're awesome.

So that's why I think the CFL is bush league. Sorry, Ravi.
Shushes on a Plane

For the first time in my life, I was actually shushed in a theatre. During SNAKES ON A PLANE. What, did they not want to miss a second of the intense dialogue? Even better, it was a 10-year-old girl and her mom who did the shushing. I got my revenge during the film's surprisingly graphic sex scene in the plane lavatory; let's just say the parents and 10-year-old were shifting uncomfortably in their seats.

Anyway, the movie was ridiculous. And great. There was actually applause when Sam Jackson dropped his legendary line about getting the muthafuckin' snakes off the muthafuckin' plane. I think the movie needed a gratuitous celebrity cameo from, like, Christopher Walken to really put it over the top.

Oh, and the cause of the shushing was a debate between Matt and I about whether or not Kenan Thompson was Goldberg in the Mighty Ducks movies. I was right (he wasn't), though since Kenan was in D2 and D3 in another role, Matt gets partial credit. But he's still wrong.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ryder? I don't even know her

I hate the Ryder Cup.

Well, that's actually not true. The Ryder Cup (and Presidents' Cup) is actually a lot of fun to watch and is one of the biggest events of the year in golf. What I actually hate is the fact that golf announcers treat qualifying for the tournament as a matter of life and death.

For the uninitiated, the Ryder Cup is a bi-annual 12 vs. 12 team golf matchup between the USA and Europe. The 12 player on each team are split into various combinations for two best-ball pairs matches on Friday, two alternate-shot pairs matches on Saturday, and the final Sunday when the dozen Americans are randomly paired against the dozen Europeans in head-to-head matches. Each team has a captain, usually an older golf star, who arranges who plays with who, and selects two golfers as "captain's picks" to join the 10 men who qualified through a points system. The event is incredibly tense because it's the rare case in golf where these guys who are trained to play for themselves have to bond together as a team.

The thing about it is, over the last few weeks, golf announcers have treated the major storyline in golf as qualifying for the Ryder Cup, which it isn't. The British Open was three weeks ago. The PGA Championship is this weekend.* The Ryder Cup is important, sure, but it's not the be-all and end-all in pro golf.

Now, the other storyline about the Ryder Cup is that the USA is in a huge slump. The Ryder was originally a USA versus Great Britain format and then a USA versus Great Britain and Ireland format, but these were scrapped since the States won virtually every time. In 1979, the format changed to the Americans versus Europe, and since then, Europe is 7-6, including four of the last five. As a result, there is a lot of hand-wringing by pundits and announcers that some of the players that are currently set to qualify for the Cup for the States are making their first Ryder appearances, and thus don't have the "experience" necessary to handle the Ryder Cup pressure.

This is, frankly, idiotic. Perhaps part of the reason there's so much pressure is because everyone is saying that these guys are underexperienced. It's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Team Europe always looks like they're having a ball, always seem to have a few colorful characters (i.e. Jesper Parnevik, Ian Poulter, Darren Clarke) on the team, and as a result seem to play a lot looser. They're just a lot more fun to watch.

Also, part of the reason the USA has lost in the last decade is because so many of the so-called Ryder veterans (i.e. Davis Love III, one of my least favourite golfers and probably the most overrated PGA player of the last two decades) have sucked it up in recent years. Getting new blood in should be a cause for celebration for Team USA, rather than cause for a lot of pissing and moaning.

In any case, that concludes my post about golf, which I'm sure about two of you found exciting. On the bright side, it's not another post about my deodorant.

* = ok, the PGA may not be all that exciting since everyone agrees that Tiger Woods is going to steamroll everyone. My call is Tiger by five shots.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mark Hates The Movies

One of the major hyped scenes in Clerks II is "the Star Wars vs. Lord of the Rings" debate. Essentially, it's Randall (representing Star Wars) against the nerdy Christian kid working at Mooby's and the short guy from Alias (representing LotR), and it's a classic Kevin Smith-deconstructs-pop culture moment.

There's just one problem: the scene came off as stale as day-old bread. It wasn't particularly funny, or insightful, or even overly clever -- 10 years of shows like "Hey, Remember the '80's" have made riffing on pop culture commonplace, rather than something original. The scene just seemed unnecessary, which is also the word that basically sums up Clerks II as a whole. It was ok, but it just sat there.

If there's a movie that summarizes the cinematic summer of 2006, Clerks II is probably it. This has been the worst summer movie season in recent memory, largely because virtually every movie (even the few I liked) have been entirely unnecessary. Like most summers, it's been a wasteland of sequels, but even by sequel standards, originality has been lacking.

MI3? It will take more than a generic action movie to get me to look past the baggage that comes with any Tom Cruise movie. Confession: I haven't actually seen it, but come on.

Superman Returns? Mmm, I guess the franchise needed an update, but not an update that is 80% taken from the Christopher Reeve series.

Pirates of the Caribbean II? Haven't seen it yet, it's probably entertaining, but....was a sequel needed? Were that many teenage girls clamouring to see Johnny Depp again? (actually, according to the box office, yes)

Da Vinci Code? The most interesting thing about the movie was when I heard that the producers of 24 bid for the rights with plans on adapting it to the season of the show. It was funny since I even said to Trev during the movie, "This would be loads better if it was Jack and Chloe running around Europe." It would've been even better if, had the novel's plot been followed, Chloe would've ended up being the descendant of Christ. Dammit, can't this still happen? Come on Dan Brown, have a soul.

Miami Vice? I liked it, but Bill Simmons put it best: "When I say the movie had nothing to do with the TV show … I mean, the movie had NOTHING to do with the TV show. Here's what they had in common: A white cop named Sonny Crockett teams up with a black cop named Rico Tubbs to crack a drug case in Miami. That's it. Everything else was different."

My current top five for the year stands at A Prairie Home Companion, Ricky Bobby, V for Vendetta, and Strangers With Candy. You'll notice that this is just four flicks, since I genuinely can't think of a movie I considered better than ok in the rest of the summer. Anyway, my fab four are all very good movies, but guess what: still no totally original ideas. All of these movies are adaptations (ok, Ricky Bobby isn't technically an adaptation of anything, but it's still a general continuation of Will Ferrell's comic persona).

By this point, the fall will have to have some jaw-droppingly good films, or else 2006 will be a near-total writeoff. At that point, I'll start my campaign for the Borat movie to win Best Picture.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Dalton Brothers!

I found these clips on YouTube, and U2 fans will get a real kick out of them. They're from before a U2 show in Los Angeles circa 1987. I love how Edge looks like Kip from Napoleon Dynamite.


Also, I've been trying to post pictures of my trip on Blogspot, but the picture thing isn't working for me. Whenever I upload a pic, the pop-up video says it worked but then nothing happens in the post composition window. I blame Mel Gibson.


Heath Ledger? I can dig it. Guy's a good actor, and can be creepy as hell. Hurk made a good comment last night about how, in order to escape the inevitable Jack Nicholson comparisons, Ledger essentially has to make Joker "the kind of guy who would kill 4,000 children while laughing his head off." In short, they made to use the homicidal Joker from the comics rather than the rich man's Cesar Romero that Jack played.

I love how I've made two posts about this upcoming Batman movie in the last month. Can you tell I'm excited?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Peanuts and Crackerjack

Baseball Road Trip ’06 is in the books, and after careful review, it topped last year’s excursion to Pittsburgh/Cleveland/Detroit. We weren’t hampered by rain like last year, we avoided Detroit, and with two more folks on the trip, the amount of fun was increased by 50%. On the downside, there were no continual jokes about a baseball player being a pedophile, nor were there any late-night creations of a talking pie. It's a long story....

Chicago was pretty cool. My co-worker/boss Jordan said it was a lot like Toronto, and I’d tend to agree, except that the city has a tougher sheen. Chicago seems like TO’s streetwise, smart-alecky older brother, the Bart to Toronto’s Lisa, if you will (while London is like Maggie….it sucks! BWAHA HA HA HA HA I’m not funny). Chicago’s mystique comes from a lot of little details, like the elevated train system that is incomprehensible if you wanted to change lines or transfer, or the free trolley service downtown that has multiple lines no longer in existence but are still on the schedule. It’s things like these that create the city’s overall attitude of “We’re a pretty good town, but if you don’t like it, fuck you.”

After a phenomenal dinner at Harry Caray’s on Wednesday (I ate a 23-ounce steak so good I could’ve eaten another directly after), we spent the next day just wandering around Chicago’s downtown and not really getting anywhere, aside from checking out Millennium Park and standing at the base of (but not going up) the John Hancock Building and the Sears Tower. Funny story from the Sears Tower: a homeless guy ostensibly ‘helped’ us by telling us the entrance to the building was on the other block, though we weren’t looking for it in the first place. Then he gave us some ‘free’ postcards of the city, and went into a spiel about how he’s living at the Chicago men’s homeless shelter and etc. Then he pauses and says to me, “You know who you look like?” Not having a clue where this is going, I decided to descend into the theatre of the absurd and answered “Michael Jordan?” He goes “No, the TV cop,” to which Scott replies the correct answer of Kojak. Just unbelievable. Now the beggars are even scoring points off of me. Hey homeless guy: when you’re asking someone for money, go for a flattering comparison, rather than a reference to the admittedly ugly Telly Savalas. I would’ve docked him points for the dated reference, but then again, it’s quite possible this guy hasn’t owned a TV in 20 years.

Anyway, we got back to the hotel and then off to the ballpark. I’ll do another post rating the ballparks later this week, but I’ll just say that anyone who ever sort of likes baseball must see a game in Wrigley Field at some point in their lives. Hell, even if you don't like the game, being in those stands amongst a packed house on picture-perfect evening was an absolutely magical experience, and I’m not the kind of guy that uses ‘magical’ in a sentence very often. It's an odd feeling to realize that someone sat in the exact spot you were 90 years ago and was still probably bitching about the Cubs' crappy starting rotation. Comiskey Park (a.k.a. US Cellular Field if you want to be a corporate whore) was also better than expected, though it was paling in comparison by the end of the trip.

On Friday, we headed off to Milwaukee. I actually felt giddy driving into town, though that may have been due to Meat Loaf’s Paradise By The Dashboard Light (one of my personal top 10 songs of all time) cranking it on the radio and resulting in a van-wide singalong. Our plan was to take a tour of Miller Park due to the fact that we had an afternoon to kill before the game, and Trev was interested because he wrote an engineering paper about Miller Park in undergrad. Amusingly, the topic of his paper was the stadium’s design flaws, but c’est la vie. Miller Park is a perfectly lovely park, despite its comical vagina shape, and a great place to watch a game.

Now, here's where I start complaining. At Comiskey, the in-stadium souvenir stores didn't have any old-school Sox jerseys with the likes of Shoeless Joe or Ted Lyons on them. No problem -- that was kind of a pipe dream anyway. Plan B was the Fergie Jenkins Cubs throwback jersey. We stopped in front of the largest Cubs merchandise store in Wrigleyville and while they had jerseys for past Cubs stars like Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg, there was no Fergie to be found. Even worse, the clerk responded to my query with a comment of, "Who's Fergie Jenkins?" Just....awful. If you own a Cubs memorabilia store across the street from Wrigley Frickin' Field itself, this kind of ignorance in your staff is unacceptable. It's like going to a bar and having the bartender not know what goes into a rum and coke.

But anyway, onto Plan C -- the Paul Molitor Brewers throwback. Unlike the Cubs and their multitude of Hall-of-Famers, the Brewers have really only had two truly great players in their history that are immediately identified as Brewers. These two are Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, and since Molly also helped the Jays win the 1993 Series, he was a no-brainer. Surely, the Brewers in-stadium memorabilia store would have a Molitor throwback, right?

Well, of course not, or else I wouldn't have spent three paragraphs bitching about it. They had a few Yount jerseys, but no Molitors. Inexcusable. So, the great jersey hunt of '06 was concluded in failure. I guess I could've bought a Carlos Lee jersey, since Lee was dealt from Milwaukee literally as we were standing in the store. I could've gotten an instant collector's item, provided that Lee goes on to have a Hall-of-Fame career -- and if the retro jersey industry suddenly collapses within the next year.

Jerseys aside, we left Miller Park for a tour of the nearby Miller brewery. Now, I'm not a beer drinker, so this held no particular appeal for me, but it was still interesting to see the process of just how much damn beer gets processed in a given day. The answer, by the way, is 500,000 cases of Miller's various brands. The complex is the size of your average university campus, which was kind of stunning given the size of the Labatt plant in London takes up just a city block. I figured it was because at least two or three of the Miller plants are used to calculate just the right amount of fluid to water down the beer with.

The tour began with a 15-minute video about Miller's history that had us all cracking up in its sheer lack of ironic self-awareness. My favourite part is when a guy was shown sitting at a bar, and the voiceover goes, "There is a time in every night out when things go from good (shot cuts to a hot woman giving him the eye from across the bar) to great. This is called (dramatic pause) Miller Time." If Josef Goebbels had made promo videos for breweries instead of Nazi propaganda, this would have been his handiwork. Some Simpsons writer must have taken this tour, seen the early 1990's version of this video and then gone home to write the "Homer and Barney tour the Duff plant" episode.

After the tour, it was into downtown Milwaukee for the now-traditional Appleby's dinner, and then back to Miller Park for the game. A note on Milwaukee: it's a lot like London, except its downtown is even more deserted. Seriously, we were there at 4:30 in the afternoon, and there was nary a car or pedestrian to be seen until we hit the highway. Is beer so prevalent in Milwaukee that everyone is taking an early happy hour, or what?

The previous night at Wrigley, a lot of people left before the end of the game, which was a thrilling 5-4 Cubs victory. We scoffed at these obvious fairweather fans who would leave at the end of a close game -- and then ate crow since we left Milwaukee after seven innings with the Brewers and Reds tied 3-3. The boys wanted to get a head-start on the eight-hour drive home, so there was some logic to it. The bright side was that we got to listen to the last two innings on the radio, and thus heard legendary announcer Bob Uecker call the Brewers' bullpen blowing the game in the eighth. Uecker is not quite at the same level as he was in his Major League (the Tom Berenger/Charlie Sheen classic) heyday, and he was sadly bereft of profanity as he was at the godawful play of the Cleveland Indians. Nonetheless, since we began the trip with Major League on the van's DVD player, it was only fitting that Uecker's dulcet tones ended the trip. Jeff and I also delivered a stirring duet of the Laverne & Shirley theme song, and I wonder just how many years it will be before nobody gets that reference. Five? Ten? Hell, do you have any idea what I'm taking about?

Next year....St. Louis/Kansas City/Cincinnati? Philly/Baltimore/D.C.? Or, my personal favourite, the Boston/New York/Cooperstown jaunt? Or, if I suddenly get rich in the next year, we'll just rent a bus like Tom Hanks and hit up all the parks alongside Ron Howard and Dennis Miller. I was sorry we didn't end up next to them in Milwaukee, actually. It would've been great.

"Hey Tom, I love your movies!"
"Hey Ron, I loved Arrested Development!"
"Hey Dennis, I'm going to get popcorn, would you stand up so I can get to the aisle?"

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bashed Out

Well folks, the Great American Posting Bash will have to come to a premature end. It just dawned on me that since I'll be away from Wednesday to Saturday in the USA, I won't have computer access, thus ending my month-long posting streak.

You'd think this would have occurred to me when I first started, but then again, the whole Bash thing was something that made sense early in the morning when I was suffering from insomnia, so I couldn't logically be expected to follow through. It's like expecting a recently unfrozen caveman to understand corporate law, like Phil Hartman -- what do you think, he'll just immediately grasp the complexities of our legal system? Hell no!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Cabbie on the Street

Cab drivers have a pretty good racket going. I took a taxi home from the ballpark last night because I wanted to get home quick and go out to meet the gang at my corner pub. As we’re driving, the cabbie gets a call on his cell phone and starts chatting away to his buddy. Naturally, since one cannot really drive and talk at the same time, he slows down. I’m forced to sit there in increasingly annoyed silence since, dude, WTF?

He is capitalizing on the natural politeness of people to not interrupt someone on the phone. Pavlov would have a field day with the way phones have conditioned us in many different ways. When you pick up a phone, you instinctively say hello, or, if you’re Mr. Burns, ahoy hoy. When you hear a phone ringing, you actively have to force yourself to not pick it up.

Cabbies already prey on the natural inclination of people to not know where they’re going. I was once in a TO cab that took an overly circuitous route to the Eaton Centre, when even I (who was a bumpkin tourist at this point in my life) knew a shorter way. In matters like that, however, I have no problem in openly giving him directions and being a back-seat driver. If you’re going to try to rip me off, I see no reason to be civil, jerk store.

I’m glad I didn’t tip much of anything. The way I see it, the extra money I spent for the extra few minutes his gabbiness cost me can pay his damn phone bill.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

GAPB #12: Crime and Punishment

I love it when a plan comes together.

I also love it when I finally come up with a suitably cool ending for a cool premise I thought up for a crime novel. I can now officially start writing the thing, and hopefully it turns out well. Hell, I just hope it turns out, as opposed to the several unfinished and – in hindsight -- pretty lame material I’ve tried to write in the past. My inability to write hard-boiled material is likely due to the fact that I’m about as hard-boiled as a…uh…a really soft egg?

This is what I’m talking about. Raymond Chandler could spin analogies so witty that it would make you want to take off your pants. Agatha Christie was an elderly British mame, and yet she was the greatest mystery writer of all time. Then again, she was also anti-Semitic, so she wasn’t all peaches and Poirot stories.

But now I have my ending. Perhaps this is the first step towards my becoming the next great crime/mystery novelist. I can take my place along such modern masters of the genre as Lawrence Block, Joan Hess or Gregory McDonald. Or, failing that, I’ll simply have to write true-crime stories. Given my laziness for research, however, I’ll end up just committing crimes and then writing my memoirs from prison. My memoirs will likely start after a lengthy forward about how to live with being someone’s shower bitch, since, as I said earlier, I’m as hard-boiled as a really soft egg. I would be eaten alive in prison.

Speaking of being eaten alive, the previews for Miami Vice bite. I love Michael Mann and all, but the brilliance of the old TV show was in its innate cheesiness. It would be like if the makes of the Brady Bunch movies (two of the more underrated subversive comedies of our time, btw) had decided to play them straight. That would’ve both blown and sucked at the same time.

A ‘real’ Miami Vice movie would feature…I dunno… let’s go with Ashton Kutcher and Wilmer Valderrama as Crockett and Tubbs, spouting cheesy one-liners. That’s a movie that I would’ve gladly missed since I know it would’ve been bad. But with the real Miami Vice, I’ll probably end up seeing it out of respect for Mann, and I’ll likely end up disappointed.

Also, speaking of cheesy TV, I caught the opening credits of 90210 on TVTropolis the other day, and was shocked to learn that Sex And The City’s Darren Star was also the creator of 90210. A quick check of IMDB reveals that Star also created Melrose Place to boot.

I nominate Darren Star for first-ballot induction into the men’s wing of the Woman Hall of Fame. Sure, it’s not like he’s come up with any good shows, but think of how much water-cooler conversation and enjoyment he’s created for the ladies over the years. Darren Star, I salute you.

Back-handed compliments aside, I’m sure Darren Star could come up with a great ending for a crime novel, so I shouldn’t talk.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Great American Posting Bash #11: Beyond B.O.

Well, I’ve got a lot of work to do at the park today, and I’m a wee bit strapped for topics. So, I’ll talk about my deodorant.

I recently made the switch to Right Guard anti-perspirant after two years using various brands of Old Spice. The reason? The Spice was causing a rash under my arms, much like how Spice Girl Geri Halliwell probably caused many a rash in more sensitive areas during her glory days in the late 90’s.

The Right Guard was recommended to me by my old pal Dave, and also in a pop culture sense by Hulk Hogan in his “anything less would be uncivilized” ad campaign for the company back in the early 90’s. Dave made sure to specify the difference between a deodorant and an anti-perspirant – whereas my Old Spice covered up the stench of my body odour, the Right Guard would merely keep me from sweating. After sweating so much in the sauna that is Toronto over the last week, I will gladly put up with a little bit of B.O. After all, I can avoid B.O. by simply not moving around much, and given my Dude Lebowski-esque status as one of the laziest men worldwide, that shouldn’t be too hard.

So, I bid you a fond adieu, Old Spice. You served me well, but it was simply time for a change. No hard feelings – I hope that someday we can go out for lunch, and we can catch up without any lingering resentment. I’ll even pick up the tab. Deodorants rarely eat much, anyway. In a related note, if you had rubbed Gandhi under your arms back in the day, he would’ve rid you of the stink of British imperialism.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Who Are The Ad Wizards Who Came Up With This One?

I have to hand it to the marketing people at 7Up. I was on the Toronto subway yesterday, sweating through another brutally humid afternoon. I get onto the transfer car at Bloor-Yonge, and every single ad on the train (probably 15-20 in total) was for 7Up. The taglines all read things like “It’s getting cooler already,” accompanied by a shot of a crystal-clear 7Up in a tall glass of ice.

Unlike Homer and the clown college billboard, there was no delayed reaction for me: I was instantly hooked. By the time the train got to Union Station, I would’ve gladly killed for a sip of a 7Up. It was the first thing I looked for at the station variety store. The punch line? I don’t even really like 7Up.

This is the power of captive advertising. It plays on your basest instincts while stuck in one place – in this case a crowded, sweaty subway car filled with people with varying degrees of body odour. Just imagine how dangerous such ads would be if put in the wrong hands. If it was a subway car full of, say, NRA ads, you could have a massacre on your hands. God bless Canada’s stringent gun laws! That gun registry was a great idea after all!.......(crickets chirping)

Monday, July 17, 2006

GAPB #7: Jersey Devils

Just a few weeks away from the Chicago/Milwaukee baseball road trip, and I’m excited. Since I picked up a Roberto Clemente Pirates jersey in Pittsburgh last year, I’m considering starting a collection of baseball jerseys from each city I visit, with each jersey displaying a name of one of the club’s all-time greats. So, on this trip, I might see if I can find a Paul Molitor Brewers jersey, or a Fergie Jenkins Cubs jersey, or a White Sox Shoeless Joe Jackson jersey. Unless the Sox don’t have Shoeless Joe jerseys available due to the Black Sox scandal, which would be understandable but still kind of crappy at the same time. Then again, I don’t think the Sox even had uniform numbers or names on the jerseys back in 1919, so it could be a moot point.

What I should do is ask for a throwback jersey for one of the club’s obscure Hall of Famers. For example, former White Sox starter Ted Lyons was one of the best pitchers of the 30’s and 40’s, but nobody’s ever heard of him today. I should just go into a U.S. Cellular Field memorabilia store and raise hell over the lack of Lyons jerseys. What would the clerks say? I’d have an airtight point. It would be shameful if a team’s own store didn’t have the jersey of one of its greatest players. Then again, Comerica Park doesn’t even sell home Tigers jerseys, which dumbfounded me.

Of course, if I actually got a Ted Lyons jersey and wore it around, I would run the risk of people thinking I was wearing a Steve “Psycho” Lyons jersey. And frankly, I’d rather wear a Zidane jersey through Little Italy than be considered a Psycho Lyons fan.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

GAPB #6: Heat Heat Hot

It is filthy hot in Toronto. It’s an oven. I read somewhere that London is actually the most humid city in Canada due to its location right at the nexus of where the pollution from Detroit, Cleveland and TO can blow in, not to mention all of our own junk that we blast into the air. At least in London I have the air conditioning, whereas here I get to go back to my room that I’ve come to know as ‘the Tomb’ in these last couple of days. Trying to sleep in a tiny room in the back of the third floor of a non-air conditioned house is bruuuuuuuuuuutallllllll, my friends.

My one little desk fan just isn’t enough. I sleep with it on all night, and since the cord isn’t very long, I now sleep curled at the foot of my bed like a cat so I can be at the closest possible point to the cool air. It’s frickin’ ridiculous – I have been reduced to a literal animal state due to this heat.

Just to top things off, the Rogers Centre roof has been open for the past three games, since while it is humid as hell, we’ve had bright and sunny days that have been ostensibly perfect for outdoor baseball. And during these two afternoon outings, the Blue Jays have played TWENTY-FIVE INNINGS against Seattle. That’s right, TWO extra innings games – 14 on Saturday, 11 on Sunday.

Is there a bright side? Well, I’ll get to make another trip to Honest Ed’s, since I’m seriously considering buying a second fan. I had never ventured into Ed’s before, in spite of all my years visiting TO, though my parents took me to his restaurant as a kid. The store is…well, it’s a junk store that sells stuff for low prices. No sense in dressing it up, I guess. I got a bathmat to replace that one that was ruined by our toilet’s feces-infested overflow two weeks ago, and the price was very reasonable.

Another bright side to the heat is that by the end of this homestand, I’ll probably have lost a bunch of weight…water weight, that is. I’ve been sweating like Nathan Lane eating a corndog. By the time you see me next, I’ll be as shriveled as the guy from Thinner.

BTW, the ‘brutal’ reference is a shoutout to a heckler that attended the July 2 Jays/Phillies games. This heckler had the exact same taunt for each Philadelphia player every…single….time… a Phillie came to bat. It was “Hey, Howard! You’re brutal, Howard! You’rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre BRUTAL!” Occasionally he stretched out the ‘bruuuuutalllllll’ part for variety, but it was nonetheless a monument to human stubbornness. And Philadelphia won that game 11-6, too, so it’s not like they were actually playing in a manner that deserved a constant bashing.

BTW, I can’t believe I just dropped a ‘Thinner’ reference in the year 2006. What a beauty!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Until I Find A Better Book

John Irving’s “Until I Find You” is one of those books that I basically enjoyed, but by the end was plowing through just trying to finish. Clocking in at 820 pages, I think it could’ve easily been cut by about 100.

What I kind of like about Irving is that though so many of his novels are adapted into films, he doesn’t write “cinematic” books. Someone like Dan Brown, for example, writes books so specifically written to be turned into movies that he is essentially writing screenplays (albeit poorly-written screenplays, in Brown’s case). Not Irving. The 820-page length is daunting enough, but then he throws in all sorts of weird sexual stuff and multiple scenes of sexual abuse of a child. It’s like Irving is throwing down a gauntlet and daring some director to turn the book into a watered-down popcorn flick, like they did in turning A Prayer for Owen Meany into ‘Simon Birch.’

The book hit many of Irving’s usual themes. Wrestling? Check. Locales in Amsterdam’s red light district, Toronto and Germany? Life at a small New England college? Check. Loads of weird sexual stuff? Triple checks in this one --- I generally like John Irving, but man, the dude’s got some issues.

Come to think of it, do I actually like John Irving? Owen Meany was a classic, A Widow for One Year was very good, and his short story collection was good. Other than those, I’m not sure any of this other books rank above ‘basically enjoyed’ with me. This is weird, since I’ll still go out of my way to read his work.

Here’s the Irving countdown…

1. Owen Meany
2. Widow for One Year (though even this really lets up after the first third)
3. Trying to Save Piggy Snead
4. The World According to Garp
5. The Fourth Hand
6. Until I Find You
7. Hotel New Hampshire (I swear, I don’t remember a thing about this book aside from the fact that it was about some wacky family that operated the hotel, and two of the kids ended up having sex. I’m not sure what was more terrifying; the incest of the fact that in the movie version, the kids are played by Jodie Foster and Rob Lowe)
8. The Cider House Rules (this book was boring as hell. I wish Irving had aborted it in its second trimester)
9. The 158-Pound Marriage (Irving’s third novel, and it just isn’t good. Irving himself admits he didn’t really become a good novelist until Garp, which is basically a fictional account of his early writing career....hopefully without the freaky sexual stuff.)

So it’s not a great batting average in terms of “books I’ll enjoy forever,” but Irving can still bring it. I like that I never know where there the hell he’s going with his stories, which is refreshing. He’s one of the few truly creative novelists out there who are ‘creative’ without being pretentiously horrible. Margaret Atwood, I’m looking in your direction – you still owe me the hours of my life I spent reading The Edible Woman in OAC English.