Thursday, August 24, 2006

Weird People I've Encountered

I'm walking down the corridor at the Rogers Centre behind a guy in a suit, who is continually flipping a coin. I never got a chance to see the guy from the front, so I don't know if it was in fact Two-Face.

I'm standing in line at Pizza Pizza last night behind a guy who I thought was one of the guys from Sloan. It might not have been him, though, since he didn't react at all when I started humming 'Money City Maniacs' (minus the opening siren part, of course -- that would've been just weird to hear some dude start making a siren noise out of nowhere when all you want is a delicious slice of pizza pie).

Sunday, August 20, 2006

CawFuL

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 09, 2006

Things I noticed on my walk home from the stadium yesterday on Monday evening....


As I walked across the bridge that leads from the Rogers Centre across the train tracks and towards John Street, I noticed (for the first time in the literally hundreds of times I’ve walked that route) that there are arrows on the glass sides of the bridge reading “This way to the CN Tower.”

If you need help finding the CN Tower, I'm not sure a simple sign can help you with your problems, brother.

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I passed a street artist selling sketches, and my eye was struck by one particular piece. I first thought it was a photograph, since everything looked so perfect. It was a gorgeously-rendered likeness that clearly took hours to perfectly capture every nuance. The subject? The Trailer Park Boys. Hey, I almost bought it for my brother.

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I passed a crowd in front of the Toronto convention centre that was there for some type of Canadian Idol taping and/or promotion. They were carrying signs and screamed on cue whenever a TV showed their favourite Idol hopeful on-screen. I was struck by the crowd’s diversity --- normally you’d expect a bunch of teeny-boppers, but it was women and men of all ages, colours and creeds. Perhaps Canadian Idol is truly the thing that has brought our country closer together than the railroad or mutual loathing of Spain invading our fishing territories. Remember that? When there was actually some suggestion of a war? That would’ve been the lamest war ever. That would’ve been like seeing two old people have a walker fight….actually, wait, that would actually be pretty awesome. I demand that someone make a series of internet-exclusive ‘Walker-Fight’ videos. I’ll even settle for a video that shows former Expos star Larry Walker battle current Padres infielder Todd Walker. Or, Chuck Norris battling a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red.

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I passed two joggers, both men in their early-to-mid-forties. The one guy was running backwards and tearing a strip off of his buddy, who was moving at a pretty good pace (certainly faster than I could run), and yet obviously not in the league of his backwards-running abuser. The exact quote was, “Move, goddammit! Fuck! Run fucking faster! Fuck!”

These two ran by just as I passed the Idol crowd, which, while not as teeny-bopper filled as I had previously suspected, still had loads of kids in it. Good times. Hopefully the second jogger didn’t pull a Vincent D’Onofrio-in-Full Metal Jacket and gain bloody revenge on his tormenter.

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I passed an ice cream truck...well, I stopped, actually, and got one of those red-white-blue popsicles. Is there a consensus name for these things? I’ve heard everything from ‘Rocket Pops’ to ‘America Pops.’ Here’s my idea: I say we just call them….delicious!

The previous paragraph was paid for by the red-white-blue ice popsicle marketing board.

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I passed the big sports clothing place near Union Station that I somehow can’t remember the name of though I’ve been by it literally hundreds of times. I was looking for a Toronto F.C. shirt, as it may be the one soccer-related garment I’m willing to plunk down some money on. I don’t want to buy a team jersey, since then that implies I’d have to care about the team. Only a singular kind of loser buys a team’s jersey just because they’re good, or because it seems hip. I remember in sixth grade, when Paul Haggis’ nephew showed up with a Montreal Canadiens coat literally within two days of their winning the Stanley Cup. He then had the audacity to claim that he had always been a fan, and just “never talked about it.”

Then again, he was Paul Haggis’ nephew, so maybe I could be working in Hollywood right now if I had been the guy’s pal instead of tormenting him all throughout grade school. C’est la vie.

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SXnPQF45dU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AVlqpHBE7Q

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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.

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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?"