Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve Memories, Part Two

2000 --- The most terrifying New Year's of all. My family and I were on a vacation in Mexico, meaning we were taking the risk of being potentially stuck in a poverty-stricken foreign land during the Y2K crisis. The Y2K virus will be one of those generational touchstones that my era will be able to look back on one day and just shake our heads, much like how we can marvel about people in the 1930's rioting over an Orson Welles radio show. Its only remnant today is in the nickname of wrestler Chris Jericho. What a bunch of nothing. The only (ONLY) thing that was affected from this 'panic' was my calculator. It was fine on the last day of term, and then boom, come January it was on the fritz. I stand by this as the reason that my OAC Calculus mark was the lowest I ever got in high school.

But anyway, at the time, we were mildly panicked about being in Mexico just in case civilization as we know it went all Terminator on us. It didn't help that we were at one of those resorts in a particularly poor village, which meant we passed street after street of dilapidated housing on the way to our luxurious digs. Damn you, liberal guilt. It was in the back of mind, however, that we'd be the ones laughing out the other sides of our mouths if the hotel's security system cut out and suddenly we were at the mercy of a town that may have had motive for wanting our various foodstuffs, drinks, worldly possessions, etc. As we all know, of course, Y2K turned out to be a dud and today those folks are probably still living in abject poverty. A happy ending for us all!

2001 --- My friend Eric and I went to the Oar House, a local London sports bar, to meet up with a variety of old high school peoples. It was sort of a semi-reunion, before those things were made largely obsolete by Facebook, given that we had all graduated just last June and it was the first time we had seen many of the old faces since. It was also where I learned that Eric, somewhat humourously, didn't remember a good 75% of the people we went to high school with. Fortunately his nodding skills were first-rate and was able to bluff with the best of them.

2007 --- It was another quiet evening at Trevor's girlfriend's place, once again with Dave in tow, but this time it was others along for the ride so as to not make Dave and I the awkward third and fourth wheels. This time, Dave brought a date, so it was Eric and I who were the awkward fifth and sixth wheels. While the two couples delivered the kisses at the strike of midnight, Eric and I stared at each other suspiciously for a moment before deciding on a manly handshake. It was...uh, magical? No Chris Farley movies this time around --- this time, it was Guitar Hero. So this time it was merely the sex and rock and roll, rather than Farley's sex and drugs. I presume it was sex and drugs for ol' Chris. A man of his fame must've gotten some action. Either that or he and Spade shared more than just manly handshakes. The night also can't go without mention of the incredible food spread provided by our hosts. Seriously, nice work, T & T. There were cold cuts, veggies, chips, dip, beverages of all kinds. So once again, Farley's gluttonous legacy was fulfilled. I really need to stop describing Chris Farley in these entries.

1999 --- This was perhaps the low point of New Year's history, at least in terms of putting any effort whatsoever into planning something to do. There's no easy way to say it, but...we went to Trev's house and watched Baseketball. God, it looks even worse in print. I think we played some pool too, but that's like saying we drank lemonade after chugging some Drano. Let's move on.

2003 --- I've already done a 2003 entry in my last post, but 2003 might well have been my favourite NY'sE of all. It was a swank house party held by some university friends renowned for their outstanding themed endeavours. Their house was also particularly well-suited for holding 40-50 drunken revelers. We all dressed up in our classiest attire and headed out for a night of champagne and (as I mentioned in my last post) McDonald's eaten at breakneck speed. The highlights included one drunken lass pinching the asses of myself and various friends to, in her words, 'see which one was the best.' Somehow it came down to me and my friend Andrew in the final two, which was the most bewildering final two given the outline of the competition since Neleh and Vecepia in Survivor: Marquesas. Andrew, by the way, was the eventual winner. Jesus wept. The other comic signature of the night came when my friend Dave was drunkenly telling someone what he did that day, which went more or less like this....

"Well, I went out for a bit, went to my strip club..."
"You own a strip club?"
"What? *confused pause* Oh wait, no. I confused my life with that of Grand Theft Auto. I was playing that all day."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Alien vs. Predator vs. My Sanity

Some of the year's more critically-acclaimed films are (finally) starting to open up in London*, so of course on Christmas night the boys and I went out to see....Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. Sigh. On the bright side, going to a movie like this with seven other people is fun since it guarantees a MST3K-esque experience of everyone just ripping the movie to shreds, and rip it we did. The thing was even worse than expected. The script was an upgrade on the previous AVP, which was written at about a third-grade level (AVPR was fourth-grade). The acting was uniformly terrible, with the pseudo-exception of Reiko Aylesworth as a soldier --- as I called her, Lt. Not Ripley. In all honesty, Reiko didn't bring much to the table either, but she has some residual goodwill built up from her days as Michelle on 24. The funniest inclusion in the cast was John Ortiz, who plays the inept sheriff. Ortiz is one of those classic 'that guy' actors who has a pretty impressive resume. His credits include films like Carlito's Way, American Gangster, Before Night Falls, Amistad and Narc, and now he's finally gotten a semi-starring AVPR. Ouch. He might've been better off doing porn. John "Orifice Tease" Ortiz has a nice ring to it.

My friends were equally unimpressed. My buddy Trev's brief overview was "one word...awful." Matt liked it better than No Country For Old Men since AVPR had an ending, which is so fucking stupid I'm not going to dignify it with a counter-argument. The best response came from Eric, who was confused as to which one was the predator and which was the alien. Eric doesn't get out much.

It's obviously clear that those behind the franchise have given up on keeping up the quality of the originals and are just cashing in on the names. I can just hope that they release a DVD with commentary from Sigourney Weaver, Lance Henriksen, Schwarzenegger, Danny Glover and/or Carl Weathers. Actually, I'd like to see a commentary track with those five on virtually any movie. This is presuming that Carl Weathers actually acts like he does in Arrested Development. "Baby, you got a stew going!"

Actually, that's not a bad idea for the next installment of the series. Bring back Weathers' character from the original Predator, along with Gary Busey from Predator 2. Alien vs. Predator vs. Carl vs. Busey --- AVPVCVB. Forget Xmas night, I might go see that one on Christmas morning.

* = one of these acclaimed films is Love In The Time Of Cholera, which has to be the funniest title of any serious movie in film history. I was reading a winter movie preview a few months back, and this film was listed next to Walk Hard, yet the write-ups were mistakenly switched. So I read the description of this wacky comedy with John C. Reilly as a country star that had the somewhat weird but funny title of 'Love in the Time of Cholera.' It wasn't until I read the 'Love' entry that I realized the mistake.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Le Nordiques

This Quebec Nordiques toque was my best clothing purchase in a while. Since I picked it up for the super-low price of $9.99 at a sports store in Masonville Mall, I've gotten about a dozen compliments on it, most of them from strangers. None were women, unfortunately, but still, it's good to know I've got street cred with the average Canadian male. Everyone loves the Nordiques. They represented a better era in pro hockey, back when Quebec and Winnipeg were still in the league and Gary Bettman was just a twinkle in the NHL's eye. How does he still have a job? The league is undisputedly weaker today than it was when he took over, and yet Bettman's tenure seems unchallenged. NHL owners are apparently easier to please than a Maple Leafs season-ticket holder.


Westmount Mall is the new Smuggler's Alley. Long-time Londoners will get this reference. Smuggler's Alley was a downtown mall that in its last few years, was literally nothing more than a movie theatre and empty stores. It was an eerie feeling strolling past blank storefront after blank storefront on the way to the theatre, the one source of life within that entire godforsaken building. It even made the Galleria look bustling by comparison.

Westmount, however, used to be arguably the busiest mall in the city. I had a streak going at that mall for literally about 5-6 years that every time I went, I ran into at least one person I knew. Today, it's rapidly moving towards the Smuggler's theme of a bustling theatre and nothin' else. A Sears and a Zellers bookend the mall, but the top floor is almost otherwise stone dead. Even the food court is clearing out. My patented Westmount meal of New York Fries and an A&W burger is only barely still valid. My Mr. Sub backup is gone, gone forever. And when I asked a guy if it would be coming back anytime soon, he said he didn't know. *sob*

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

201st Post Spectacular!

Apparently that bit of nonsense I posted about the New Year's parties was my 200th post on Blogspot. I have so many people to thank. There's Thomas Blogspot, the founder of Blogspot. And that's it.

To celebrate, I've decided to allow you, my belovedly loyal and small audience, to select what you feel are the best posts in Polivision history. Search the archives if you must (or use the handy-dandy 'search' feature at the top of the page if you just remember key words of a certain post) and then tell me what your favourite was in the comments section of this very post. If you need a cheat sheet, refer to this post of my personal 'greatest hits' I made last July.

How many comments will I get? That's the beauty of it. If there's a pathetically low amount, that's part of the joke. If there's a pathetically high amount, then I can bask in popularity not seen since my ninth grade drama class when I won the 'make the other person smile' game by doing a running somersault and landing hard on my back. My pain is apparently hilarious.

The Polivision 201st Post Spectacular --- Screw You, Emily Post.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New Year's Eve Memories, Part One

1998 --- Gathered at a friend's house, we end playing a game of Trivial Pursuit. OMG WHAT A PARTY. I end up finishing second due to mispronouncing 'Tiananmen,' and since we were playing under stickler rules, I didn't get the point. What garbage. This was also back when I still stuttered, so it's quite possible I said something like Twpetgogjsghogjfgjgfjmen. Actually, I think the Twpetgogjsghogjfgjgfjmen are also Thailand's top super-hero team.

2003 --- On our way home from a party, we walk through the drive-thru at the Wharncliffe-Oxford McDonald's. I think it was due to us that they issued a cars-only policy, but anyway, we made our food order then went back to another friend's house to eat and call the cabs. My usually non-gluttonous pal Trevor ordered 20 McNuggets, and in the time it took us to pick up the receiver, call U-Need-A-Cab and hang up (a span of maybe 45 to 60 seconds) he had somehow eaten them all. It was amazing. This was in the era when a group of us would order a massive three-figure amount of Nuggets and plow through them --- our record was 280 McNuggets split among 17 people. It basically turned into a scene from Caligula, except with eating McDonald's instead of the gross sex stuff --- one guy was lying on the ground with his back arched, with his girlfriend holding a McNugget aloft and dripping honey sauce into his mouth. Trevor's contributions to these binges were no more than 10 Nuggets tops, so to jump to 20 was a major achievement. But the time! My God the time! In a single minute! Trev was pretty drunk, so perhaps it was a situation like Jackie Chan in the Legend of Drunken Master. Perhaps alcohol is what fuels Ted Kennedy's senatorial powers too.

2002 --- It was another example of gluttony, if somewhat more low-key. We settled in for a quiet evening at Trevor's girlfriend's place (not me and Trevor's girlfriend by ourselves, that would be pretty backstabby) and watched TV. The always-entertaining Tommy Boy was on --- it's hard to believe that it has been 10 years since Chris Farley died. It was hard to believe that it had been five years since his death back in 2002. Anyway, the gluttony came in when Trevor's girlfriend's well-prepared snack platter ended up being plowed over like snow on a main road. My friend Dave ended up passed out on the living room floor due to drinking, I ended up eating so many vegetables that I felt oddly ill, and Trev and his girlfriend sat awkwardly on the couch as if waiting for me to pass out as well so they could start making out. In fact, wait a second, perhaps that was the cause of my stomach ache. Those cucumbers were laced with roofies. That's what knocked Dave cold (well, that and his comically low tolerance for alcohol). I only stayed awake because I have a cast-iron gastrointestinal system. I have the Wolverine of stomaches. And this is like that X-Men comic when Wolverine tagged along on Colossus and Kitty Pryde's date to keep them from getting their swerve on. You know what, I said that as a joke, but there's a good chance there actually has been an X-Men comic where Wolvy was all overprotective towards Kitty and thus cock-blocked Colossus. That poor Russian.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

(More) Live Music!

My last post featuring live music clips found on YouTube was a huge success (two responses!) that it's time for a sequel. Once again, all credit must be given to the dearly-departed Ten Cent Freeze Pops, which was the only blog in internet history to ever YouTube clips. Ever.

Stevie Wonder, Superstition, Sesame Street, 1973

When I saw the title of this clip, I figured it would've been something like Stevie singing a re-worked version titled 'Monster-stition' to Grover. While this would've also been awesome, I was surprised to find an actual live performance, and a sick one at that, with no tomfoolery about except for that hilarious shot of the one kid on the balcony totally rocking out. That child at age seven had a thicker head of hair than I ever had or ever will again. Dammit.

U2, Mysterious Ways (w/Sexual Healing snippet), Irving Plaza in New York, 2000

To promote the All That You Can't Leave Behind album and to warm up for their full-out world tour in 2001, U2 did a handful of small theatre shows in late 2000 and early 2001. This particular gig was broadcast live on the radio, and I remember tuning in on a cold, wintry night almost exactly seven years ago. It was my first direct (not a video, not a concert film) taste of live U2. Mysterious Ways is one of my favourite of their songs, and despite it being a big hit and well-known the world over, it's kind of underrated. You don't really hear it mentioned in the same breath as U2's other classics, in spite of the fact that it holds as well or better as any song they've ever recorded and sounds wicked live. Whassupwitdat?

George Harrison and Paul Simon, Here Comes The Sun/Homeward Bound, Saturday Night Live, 1976

Quite possibly the greatest of all musical performances in SNL history. Is there any doubt Art Garfunkel was somewhere watching this and taking stiff shots of whiskey from a rapidly emptying decanter? I think this was also the episode that featured Harrison trying to collect Lorne Michaels' famous $3000 cheque for the Beatles to reunite on SNL ("You can divide it up any way you want --- if you want to give less to Ringo, that's up to you").

As a bonus link, here's an account of a live sketch comedy show performed by most of the current SNL cast and 'hosted' by Michael Cera. This show took place a few weeks ago at a small Manhattan theatre due to the fact that SNL isn't running due to the writer's strike, and yet given the description, it sounds like it was good or better than any SNL episode in several years.

The Breeders, Cannonball, The Jon Stewart Show, 1993

This clip is wonderful for many reasons, only a few of which have to do with the song. First of all, good lord, check out 1993 pre-Daily Show (and apparently pre-puberty) Jon Stewart! Listen to his energetic plug of Sinbad as tomorrow's guest! Look at that hair!

Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven, O2 Arena in London, 2007

Well, this one is more or less the inspiration for my reviving this post. When one of the legendary rock bands of all time reunites for a one-off performance, that's cause for celebration. Apparently Led Zep didn't film the concert because they were afraid it would suck and didn't want to be obligated to release something that would tarnish their good name. As it happens, however, the show went off without a hitch. I've got to believe that Zep at least did a soundboard recording for a future live album, but then again, perhaps it fits better with their mystique that this show lasts forever in people's memory and in fuzzy YouTube clips. It's also kind of funny that in the controversy over Robert Plant singing everything in a lower register, people forgot that he's actually a way better singer (in terms of actual singing) today than he was 30 years ago. Frankly, if Led Zep can reunite after all these years, it gives me hope that we'll still see that Beatles reunion. Come on, John, Paul, George and Ringo! 'Come together' for one more show!


......what? Really? Wow, when did that happen? 2001?? And 1980?! Good lord, where was I?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Random Idiocy

Janet Gaynor and Emil Jannings, the first-ever winners of the Best Actress and Best Actor Academy Awards in 1927, won their Oscars not for one role, but for a cumulative accounting of three roles. Gaynor was nominated for her role in three different films, and Jannings for two --- not three and two separate nominations in the category, respectively, but just one nomination that listed all of their cited films. They both won in essence not for one particular part, but because since they had given strong performances in several films, they were the actors of the year. This was the only year such a nominating procedure resulted in a win, and the rules were soon changed so that each nominee could only be nominated for one specific role. This didn't stop unofficial 'actor of the year' Oscars from being awarded, i.e. Jessica Lange winning best supporting actress for Tootsie in 1982 when pretty much everyone considered it to be an overall award given she also starred in (and was nominated for as Best Actress) the film Frances.
In this crazy-deep movie year, the Academy might want to think about re-adopting this tactic. There are lots of stars with multiple notable performances that may end up getting the overall shaft if Academy members split their votes. To name just a few...

Amy Adams (Charlie Wilson's War, Enchanted)
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, Jesse James)
Christian Bale (Rescue Dawn, I'm Not There)
Javier Bardem (Love in the Time of Cholera, No Country For Old Men)
Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age, I'm Not There)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Charlie Wilson's War, The Savages)
Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah, No Country For Old Men)
Denzel Washington (American Gangster, The Debaters)

That's not even counting people like George Clooney or Johnny Depp, who had both an Oscar-ish role (Michael Clayton, Sweeney Todd) and a hit popcorn movie (Ocean's Thirteen, Pirates III). I dunno, doesn't the old way kind of make more sense? I guess there would be a gray area since a person could have multiple roles that spread over categories, like how Hoffman is the lead in Before..., and Savages but is supporting in Charlie Wilson. But isn't that more impressive in a way since he is able to both carry a movie by himself and play a supporting role?


What's your preferred sports-related, made-up term?

("Todd Helton's home run traveled a guess-timated 385 feet.")


("Ohhhh! Vince Carter just posterized Fredric Weis!")


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Slap Bet #1

Well, it had to happen eventually. I was hanging out with Kyle over the weekend, and received slap one of five. Just as I was putting on my coat and getting ready to leave, I turned around and caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. Kyle was raising his hand in my direction, I blocked, but his other hand came across for the inaugural slap. I should note that my block wasn't a direct avoidance of the oncoming slap --- such an action is punishable by more slaps, as per the edict of the slap bet commissioner. But it's just human nature to react when you see a hand coming towards you. Also, after reading so many Spider-Man comics as a kid, I think I developed my own spider-sense to warn against danger. Kyle's slap wasn't very hard, certainly not one of those overblown comic backhands that Marshall lays on Barney, since it's difficult to actually slap someone in real life when you're not trying to punch them. Try it sometime! Preferably not on Grandma!

Here's the best part of the whole thing, as well as insight into the insidious nature of the slap bet. I had totally forgotten that a slap could be coming until Kyle's brother casually mentioned it as one point in the evening. You'd think that a slap could be on my mind, but that's the beauty of it --- when you see a friend of yours, you think "Oh, there's good ol' so-and-so," not "Oh, there's that guy who might slap me." Your normal feelings of good tidings towards your friend override your suspicion that a slap could be coming. Lousy common human decency! It wouldn't be nearly as fun losing a slap bet to a casual acquaintance of an enemy, since then you'd always be presuming a slap could be just around the corner.

Now that Kyle has gotten the ice-breaker slap* out of the way, I fully expect to not receive another until roughly 2010. His slaps can be used throughout the rest of our lives, and it would be just like him to wait. We were joking that conceivably he could slap me while we're in our nursing homes, even if I'm hooked up to a machine and literally at death's door. I might end up being slapped to death, folks. There's a Law & Order plot for you.

Unless...Kyle slaps me four times the next time we hang out. That would be truly unexpected, and thus perhaps the most evil plan of them all. Damn you, Wasko! DAMN YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

And I didn't even get a song out of it!

* = Usually the term 'ice-breaker slap' only applies to the slap I receive from women I'm trying to pick up at the bar. My opening line is "How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice. Can I have your number?" I realize this is stolen from those Glomobi ads on the CBC, but since my tax dollars pay for CBC programming, I figure I have the rights to borrow liberally from its advertising. Also, the guy saying that line in the ad sounds exactly like my pal Hayes. It's uncanny.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Back to Back Jacks

What the hell? Two posts in as many days? Zut alors!

I haven't been hitting up the blog very often due to the simple fact that I'm back in London. No more evenings stuck in a Toronto and/or East York abode sitting around with nothing to do but explode my crazy thoughts onto the internet. Now I'm on a whirlwind of...well, still sitting around, but now there's a whole lot of TV to watch and people to see and so on and so forth. It just seems that for whatever reason, when I'm at home I'm more apt to spend a bunch of time on silly things like Facebook Scrabble or, my latest obsession, Karl Pilkington.. Just about any of his podcast appearances with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are pure comic gold. Karl's comments are as funny as Ricky's reactions to them -- god, what stand-up comedian wouldn't want someone with Gervais' laugh in the audience? The YouTube link I provided above has arguably Ricky's greatest reaction ever, at roughly the 4:12 mark. It made me laugh until my sides hurt.

There's also the home traditions of putting the deck furniture in the shed (the true first sign of winter) and putting up the Xmas lights. I know, it's still over a month away, but there was another reason for the earliness. Our Christmas lights are, for reasons that remain inexplicable to me, green and yellow. I can't explain it, it's not festive at all, and yet we've had these lights for as long as I can remember. But this year I wanted them up before Thursday's big clash between my beloved Packers and the Dallas Cowboys that will more or less determine who wins the NFC. I figure the green and gold lights will provide that extra bit of support that Green Bay will require to win the football game played a thousand miles away. Butterfly effect, people!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ad Nauseum (I swear I've used this title for at least three other posts)

I'm not a fan of the new Mini-Wheats song. It lacks the catchy simplicity of the original Miiiiinnniiiii WHEATS WHEATS WHEATS hook. This new 'strawberry vanilla' Mini-Wheats jingle is to the original jingle what OMC's second single was to How Bizarre. Does anyone remember that second single? The video had them riding on the bus or something. I may have blocked it from my memory.


Speaking of horrifying ads, what's your favourite WSIB commercial spot? I think it's between the retailer and the chef, with a solid bronze going to the welder. I nearly spit out my drink when I first saw that kitchen safety one. Geez, I hope someone didn't slip on my regurgitated water and horribly burn themselves.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


All kinds of spoilers ahead, so if you're planning to see the movie, ignore this post altogether. Well, maybe not altogether, but at least don't read it until you've seen the movie. After all, I want people to read these posts. I spend as many as five minutes writing them!

The MacGuffin is a film term popularized by Alfred Hitchcock to describe a plot device or object within a plot that is essentially the cause of the movie's action. For example, in Lord of the Rings, the ring is the MacGuffin. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, it's the Ark. In Pulp Fiction, the briefcase with the glowing interior is the MacGuffin (Tarantino was actually satirizing the process by never actually showing what was inside the case, since it ultimately didn't matter -- all that mattered was that we knew it was valuable).

Some critics argue that 'MacGuffin' is something of a ridiculous term in relation to a movie plot, since ultimately, everything within a movie acts as a vehicle for the plot in one way or another. This is kind of a big picture analysis that some film theorists like to make in order to be party poopers. It's equivalent to the "we're all going to die sometime" line of nihilistic thinking that someone might make in a theoretical argument over which would be worse, bleeding to death or drowning. No no, the fun is in the guessing! Sure, it's a morbid game, but that's the point! Oh, you're no fun, Grandma. And sure it's appropriate conversation at Christmas dinner!

Anyway, No Country For Old Men features a classic MacGuffin (a briefcase full of money) but it develops into something perhaps more akin to the Coen Brothers' take on this nihilistic point of view. As the film goes on, it gradually becomes apparent that the characters are MacGuffins to Anton Chigurh's story. The briefcase found by Llewelyn Moss only serves to put people in Chigurh's way and, as we soon learn, that means they're dead. End of story. The one exception is a gas station employee that Chigurh spares early in the film apparently only due to a coin flip. Yes, that's right, a character in a Tommy Lee "Two-Face" Jones film used a coin flip to decide a person's life. I wonder if Jones pointed out this coincidence during the shoot, or kept his mouth shut for fear that reminding people he was in Batman Forever would cause the Coens to throw him off the set.

The film is fascinating in its slow unraveling of plot, as Moss tries to get away with his found money and Chigurh simply stays after him with the calm persistence of Pepe Le Pew chasing a female feline victim of a paint spillage. Usually in a movie like this, Moss (Josh Brolin) is the protagonist and you figure the story will eventually lead to Moss turning the tables on Chigurh and leading to a showdown where either Chigurh dies, or both die and Moss is able to go out a hero by saving his wife. Brolin's calm screen presence seems to back this up. This guy isn't a Jerry Lundegaard who is so nervous you just know things will fall apart. Moss seems only a shade less calm than Chigurh and may have what it takes to....uh, nope.

I would expect Javier Bardem to win a supporting Oscar for his role as Chigurh, partially because he's also excellent in the upcoming Love In The Time of Cholera and thus the Academy will likely give him one award to sum up his body of work in the year, partially because NCFOM may be too violent to win Best Picture and thus the Academy will still want to award the film something, and (oh yeah) because he's excellent in the role. Chigurh instantly joins the list of iconic characters in Coen brothers films that people will remember years from now. The role certainly doesn't take a lot of emotion from Bardem (as my friend Matt put it, "I could've played that role just by being comatose") but his utter lack of anything but slightly amused determination makes for one creepy villain. Even when Moss evades him and Chigurh is shot in the leg, he doesn't get mad. He just cleans up his wound and goes back to the hunt --- oh yeah, after blowing up a car in order to get into a drug store to get bandages without anyone noticing. Yikes.

This is the kind of work that Chigurh puts into covering his tracks that leaves the movie's other central character, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (the similarly tri-named Tommy Lee Jones) stunned and disheartened. There's no respectful acknowledgment that "he's the best" or some such dialogue. Everyone refers to him as a psychopath. Even when Stephen Root's businessman character refers to him as "the ultimate bad-ass," but bounty hunter Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) dismisses that notion. Yet, the scene also establishes Wells as one of the few people who has even seen Chigurh and lived. He becomes like a creature of myth --- even the name, 'Chigurh' sounds like a creature from Olde English myth, like something Beowulf would hunt. What NCFOM essentially is is the Coens' deconstruction of the film trope of the one-man killing machine. This isn't like Hitman or Rambo, or even something like Silence of the Lambs where you leave the theatre thinking the killer is kind of cool. Here you leave saying the same thing that many of Chigurh's victims say: he "didn't have to do this" and "these people didn't have to die" for Chigurh to get what he wanted.

The ending is pretty low-key, and the group I saw it with was pretty disappointed with it. Sheriff Bell retires after Moss' death out of the feeling that things are getting just a bit too evil in the world for him to keep up with. The final scene is Bell relating a dream to his wife that seems to imply that all he's doing is waiting for the end to come. I thought it was kind of fitting. Bell is simply facing his fate, just as the rest of the characters in the film do except fate is personified as Chigurh. Actually, I was a bit confused by a scene near the end where Bell investigates a motel room for the still-not-found satchel of cash. We see Chigurh nearby with his rifle ready to go, and yet he surprisingly doesn't kill the sheriff. We see in the first scene of the movie that Chigurh is willing to kill police, so I was kind of curious that Bell was seemingly spared here. At the time I thought this was a sign that Bell would be the one to ultimately finish off Chigurh and thus the killer's one mistake would come back to haunt him, but instead the sheriff just retires to his ranch. Perhaps the unspoken message is that Chigurh is on his way to eventually kill Bell, or perhaps Bell is taking the easy way out. Bell realizes he "doesn't have to do this" himself, i.e. hunt Chigurh. Put it this way: if you were the only one in the pool who survived a shark attack, would you want to hop into the water with a spear-gun to go kill the big fish or would you sit back and just thank your lucky stars? Note: rhetorical question only applies if you're not Robert Shaw.

This is definitely among the Coen brothers' best movies and thus is certainly one of the best I've seen this year. Either it gets a passel of Oscars or else the Coens send Chigurh after the Academy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Burning TV Questions

* Is the Goodyear guy the greatest TV pitchman since the glory days of the Maytag repairman? This man has been the face of Goodyear for close to 20 years now. He's moved through dozens of ad campaigns -- answering phone calls, asking rental car companies if he could use his own tires, and now riding shotgun in a blimp. He's done it all. His longevity has to be, in part, caused by the fact that he's now terribly typecast. As least Gordon Jump (the old Maytag repairman) could also hang his hat on being on WKRP In Cincinnati, and playing the child molester in that one really weird episode of Diff'rent Strokes. Wouldn't it blow everyone's minds if the Goodyear guy played, say, a pedophile on The Shield or something?

* Curb Your Enthusiasm: does it count as a spinoff of Seinfeld? On the one hand, it obviously doesn't take place in the same universe as George, Elaine, Kramer and fake Jerry. Then again, Curb's version of Larry David is essentially George if Seinfeld's "Jerry" sitcom had taken off and been successful and George had moved to L.A. and gotten married. It's a tough call. I ask since, in the 'best spinoff ever' debate, if Curb counts, then it's between just it and Frasier in TV history.

* Am I the only one who finds the girl in the Tic Tac ads really good-looking? It seems like she should be British, though. That's what's holding her back.

* Can anyone who watches that TVTropolis trivia show 'Inside The Box' tell me if they have returning champions, a la Jeopardy? Since if they do, I'm the next Ken Jennings. I have never been more sure of anything in my life. I would roll through that show like the Kansas City Chiefs through a high school team. TVTropolis would have to put me on the payroll.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cal Marching Band's Tribute To Video Games

This made me laugh out loud. The music is great enough, but the choreography takes it to legendary status. Nice work, Cal. It more than makes up for your football team falling apart.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jude Law & Cameron Diaz Are Friggin' Doppelgangers (or, a review of Sleuth)

Two weeks ago, I went to see the new version of Sleuth. The original Anthony Shaffer play was one of my favourites, and the original 1972 screen version starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine was excellent as well. This newest film was directed by Kenneth Branagh, adapted by Harold Pinter and, in a neat twist, stars Caine in the Olivier role, and Jude Law in Caine's old role.

All a recipe for fun, right? Well, the film was sidetracked for me during a crucial scene when Jude Law is confronting Caine, and Law's hair happens to be a bit slick due to water or hair gel or what have you. I don't know if it was the lighting or how Law's face was framed, but I swear to god, in that moment he looked literally exactly like Cameron Diaz. It was creepy. The resemblance was uncanny. It's definitely in the eyes. If Diaz or Law widen their eyes, they're twins from above the nose and just below the hairline. Or, hell, maybe even including the hairline if Law has his wet blond locks from this film and if Diaz hasn't gone brunette at the moment.

Now, these are two people whose faces I've been looking at on the big screen for about 20 combined years. Hell, they were even in a movie TOGETHER as LOVE INTERESTS. Blerg. The Holiday just became far weirder than it seemed from the trailers. Did Narcissus get an executive producer credit? Who would've thought that Kate Winslet/Jack Black would be the second strangest coupling in a film? This is like the Seinfeld episode where George dated the woman that looked just like Jerry, except in this twisted scenario, it's Jerry dating the female Jerry. (Apropos of nothing, that episode fell flat for me because that actress looked nothing like Jerry Seinfeld. It was a pretty forced joke. Also, that same actress played the crime-solving nun on Father Dowling Mysteries, starring Tom Bosley. I watched way too much TV as a kid.)

The upshot of it is that Cameron Diaz has now been ruined forever. It's always a bummer when something like this happens. It's like when Mena Suvari hosted SNL back in the day, and she was in a skit where she impersonated Aaron Carter. While I applaud SNL for actually finding someone who looks like the person being impersonated (unlike recent cases of Maya Rudolph as Beyonce or Will Forte as John Edwards), the fact was that the wig and mild makeup made Suvari look exactly like Carter. It was, as they say, a cold shower. It ruined the whole Mena Suvari experience. Oddly enough, it doesn't affect American Beauty -- given the rumours about Kevin Spacey, it's actually quite believable that he'd be infatuated with Aaron Carter.

Anyway, that was the largest of several things that took my attention off of Sleuth. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not that Branagh created such a distracting setting for a story based around misdirection. Caine's character's house is one of the more unusual sets I've seen in a film. It looked, essentially, like the house in Beetlejuice after the Dietz family moved in and made it all Tim Burton-modern artish. The trouble in Sleuth, however, is that your attention should be focused on the intense mindgames between Caine and Law --- not wondering if the production designer is on acid. There were also a few too many avant-garde framings of the two men for my liking. Usually I'm a big fan of Branagh's directorial efforts (his Hamlet is probably the best Shakespearean film translation I've ever seen) and I think his acting is way too theatrically overblown, but this time it was his directing style that needed to be brought down several notches.

The film isn't all bad. There's a new ending that provides fresh surprises for fans of the original that think they can predict all the twists and turns. Alec Cawthorne makes a rare film appearance reprising his role from the 1972 film as Inspector Doppler. Caine and Law, as you'd expect, really bring it, and their scenes are suitably intense. Here's another wrinkle to the story of Law resembling Diaz. Let's just say it may have been intentional that Law looked like a woman, since there's a bit more, let's say sexual energy to the film that wasn't there in the original. I read an essay about Sleuth in school that argued the original Shaffer play had a strong homosexual subtext to it. Apparently Harold Pinter read this same essay, slapped his forehead, shouted 'By Jove, that's the ticket!' and started typing. In case you're wondering what I'm tap-dancing around, the last 30 minutes is just a hardcore sex scene between Law and Caine. It's disturbing. They wear fireman's uniforms. Law recites nothing but his Gigolo Joe dialogue from A.I., and even stranger, Caine reprises all his lines from On Deadly Ground in one bitter monologue. The scene was so powerful that several people in the theatre started making out and/or openly pleasuring themselves. That's the last time I attend a show at THAT theatre. Thrice bitten, four times shy.

Onward to the 2042 version of Sleuth, starring Jude Law and some young British actor who hasn't been born yet. Alec Cawthorne will be kept in cryogenic storage for a third go-around.

Friday, November 09, 2007

24, in 1994

The next season of 24 is the first casualty of the WGA strike. Word on the street is that the January premiere has been indefinitely postponed since the producers want to air all 24 episodes in an uninterrupted block, and since only about a third of the episodes have been written and even fewer than that have been shot, the show is being put on hold rather than risk airing the first few episodes and then having a long break. Depending on how long the strike lasts, 24 might not actually air until the summer.

So, even as poor as last season was, bummer. On the bright side, at least Kiefer can serve his jail time in peace. And if you're jonesing for a Jack Bauer fix, here's a look at what 24 would've been like in the year 1994.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's My Birthday! My Buh-Buh-Buh-Buh Birthday!

I'm now officially in my late twenties. My friends will claim that 26 is still mid-twenties, but they're just humouring me, like when an old man starts rambling about music today and you just politely nod.

The celebration included going to see Michael Clayton last night. It was very good, though it seemed like a really great TV pilot than a feature film. The cast, writing and direction was top-notch. I enjoyed the small cameo from Rounders co-writer Brian Koppelman as a loudmouth in Clooney's poker game. I also enjoyed the coming attraction preview for Dan In Real Life, if only for the fact that Juliette Binoche and Dane Cook play a couple. Juliette Binoche. And Dane Cook. A couple. This is up there with Sophie Marceau and David Spade in that dog movie as the most bizarre-but-we're-expected-to-buy-it pairing of all time.

As what I can only interpret as a birthday gift, CBC aired one of all-time favourite Simpsons episodes this afternoon --- the one where Bart falls in his love with his babysitter (which leads to Moe's immortal "I wasn't really going to kill you...I was just going to cut you" line and Homer's comparison of women to beer) and Homer going to the all-you-can-eat seafood place. Presuming CBC keeps up its cycle through the Simpsons catalogue, the next few months should be nothing but classic episodes. Self high-five!

The night will be spend at a local pub watching the World Series and 'letting' people buy shots for me. I'm obviously picking the Rockies with my heart, but the Red Sox are looking nigh-unstoppable right now. It sounds weird to think of the team that's won 21 of 22 as an underdog, but after over a week off, one wonders if Colorado can keep up the momentum. There's no truth to the rumour the Rockies are getting a choir comprised of Josh Beckett's ex-girlfriends to sing the anthem (and maybe a chorus of I Will Survive) before game one. Unless the Boston pitchers have a lot of trouble adjusting to Coors, I'm picking the Red Sox in six.

Also, Oct. 24 is the 15th anniversary of the Blue Jays winning their first World Series title. They technically got the last out on Oct. 25, which annoyed me to no end since I wanted them to win it on my birthday. The next season, Joe Carter hit his homer at approximately 11:40 on October 23, giving me another near-miss. Self charley-horse!

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Oh crap, the Springsteen concert! It went down last Monday and I completely forgot to blog about it. Me am smart.

Long story short, it was pretty spectacular. I'm saying this from the perspective of a long-time and pseudo-semi hardcore Bruce fan. I can see how it could be differently interpreted from a more casual observer. I went with my friend Lori, whose knowledge of the Boss is largely limited to his big hits, and while she enjoyed the show, she wished Bruce could've played a few more of his classics. This is the rub of attending a Springsteen concert. Bruce is known for playing a wide variety of songs in his setlist over a tour, including not just his hits but any number of random tunes. Monday's show, for example, featured such old album tracks as Darlington County, For You, Candy's Room and even Thundercrack, a 35-year-old b-side. For hardcore fans, this is terrific -- I was sitting there saying "holy crap" over and over again since I never thought I'd be hearing some of these songs. Since part of fun of attending a concert is hearing your favourites, however, I could see how a Bruce experience may not be suited to the more casual fan. It's not like none of the hits were played, I should point out. The encore featured a back-to-back shot of Born To Run and Dancing In The Dark, which ended the show on a rousing note. But perhaps it might've been better had some of the hits been spread out a bit more throughout the show to keep the energy level up.

Ok, I'm now done telling Bruce Springsteen how to do his job. The highlights for me were the aforementioned Darlington County, which featured a great sax/violin duet, and Reason To Believe, which you may recall as an acoustic number from Nebraska. It's been revived as a bluesy rocker with the 'Spirit in the Sky' guitar riff and a harmonica solo included. Livin' In The Future was the best of the new, dammit, I didn't even do a review of the new Magic album. It was good. Man, where is my memory going? All of these easy blog topics that I'm passing up. Next thing you know I'll forget to post about that time I met Scarlett Johansson. That was a great day...(McBain voice) in bed. I wonder if Bruce ever regrets his first name, since it has single-handedly prevented him from ever hearing full-fledged applause from an audience. No matter how good he is, there will always be an affectionate 'Brrruuuuce' chant. These are the kinds of problems that would've been avoided had he adopted Laszlo Springsteen as a stage name. Or Hawksley Springsteen. Did you know 'Hawksley Workman' is a stage name? That's so disappointing.

In terms of ambiance, sitting at five o'clock in the upper level of the ACC is a bit different than my last Bruce concert experience, which was on the floor about 15 feet away from the Boss. Had we been that close again, Lori would've been called up onto the stage during Dancing in the Dark, and then gone on to star in a hit sitcom in 10 years. The role of me in this sitcom would be played by Evan Handler. On the bright side about our seats, we were right up by the Leafs' Stanley Cup banners. I noticed the long stretch between 1951 and 1962 without a Cup (a.k.a. the Bill Barilko curse gap) and I'm sure that those old-time fans probably thought 11 years was an eternity without a Toronto Cup. Sigh. Lucky bastards.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Name That Song

I was out at a bar the other night watching the ALCS, and I heard a song played over the pub's sound system that stuck in my head. This was a song that I was vaguely familiar with, though had no idea of the title, artist, lyrical content or even the basic melody --- all I knew was the hook. It was a combination of keyboard and slide guitar and once I name the actual song, you'll probably nod your head and know exactly what hook I'm talking about. Anyway, the hook struck a chord (no pun intended...wait, I'm a sarcastic git, of course the pun was intended) with me, and I asked my companions if they knew the song. No clues.

Fast forward to a night later, when I'm sitting in front of my computer at 2 AM reading Chuck Klosterman columns and listening to Thom Yorke's solo album. The hook suddenly enters my head, and I'm overtaken by a sudden urge to track down this song. It sounded vaguely like Depeche Mode, and, to quote Jarvis Cocker, so I started there. Checked Wikipedia's Depeche Mode entry for a list of singles, eliminated the ones I was already familiar with ("People Are People," "Personal Jesus," etc.), opened another tab on YouTube and went searching. Eleven songs later I finally found it --- Policy of Truth, off of DM's acclaimed Violator album.

So after celebrating my successful bit of detective work, the next hour was spent listening to this song. I'm not exaggerating. A full hour of the same song, just reloading the YouTube video clip over and over again. I'm not one to use the phrase 'hypnotic' while describing a song, but Policy of Truth is one of the most perfectly quality background music songs ever written. I am suddenly crazy about this track. This is the musical equivalent of having a really great first date.

Yet the odd thing about it is, as I mentioned before, I already had heard Policy of Truth before. It didn't just fall out of the sky. The song was released in 1990, for pete's sake. It just didn't have any effect on me whatsoever until hearing that memorable hook while watching Paul Byrd hold off the Red Sox and listening to my pal Aron tell a funny story about one of his friends having a memorable breakup. Just over 24 hours later, I was suddenly a huge fan of the song and am now interested in pursuing a backwards-fandom expedition on the Depeche Mode catalogue, not unlike my recent foray into the world of the Talking Heads. I think we all enjoy these experiences in life when we can take immense pleasure in the obvious and unheralded. It makes things so much simpler. It appeals both to one's sense of romance and sense of laziness at the same time -- everything I want is right in front of me, it's just a matter of time before I see it. To re-use and slightly tweak the first date analogy, it's like the opposite of love at first sight. It's the kind of love that slowly dawns on you, somewhat in the vein of Homer sitting up in a cold sweat and realizing he hates (but then loves) Ted Koppel.

In summation, Depeche Mode is a pretty sweet band.


Another music-related note for the evening. When I was listening to my iTunes catalogue earlier in the evening, the following phenomenon occurred -- with the setting on random shuffle, the system spit out the original version of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For followed immediately by the live version of the same song from Rattle & Hum. The next two songs played were the live version of Pride, also from Rattle & Hum, and then the album version of Pride from Unforgettable Fire! What the deuce? I currently have 631 songs on my laptop, so could someone with a knowledge of statistics please calculate the odds of such a combination happening?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mark Loses A Slap Bet

Some of you may have noticed the PokerStars ad that was on this blog last week. Last Sunday, PokerStars had its annual poker tournament open only to bloggers, and since it's free entry to anyone with a blog, I signed up. My pal Kyle also decided on get in on the action, and thus we entered into a friendly side wager.
Now, Kyle has been trying to get me to watch How I Met Your Mother for at least the last year, and I finally relented after hearing his rapturous praise of an episode called 'Slap Bet.' That episode introduced the concept of the slap bet, which is essentially a wager between two friends where the winner gets to slap the loser a) 10 times in succession or b) 5 times, but the slaps are doled out at any point over the loser's life, without warning. Obviously, option B is way more fun, so Kyle and I chose that route.

So, tournament time. We're at separate tables, which was expected given that nearly 1400 people were playing. Ten minutes in, I was slightly up, Kyle was slightly down, and I was settled in for an afternoon of poker that was admittedly cutting into seeing my beloved Packers in action. Then came...the hand. I was dealt pocket queens, and thus raised, only to be re-raised by the button. Since my raise wasn't very big, I put the other guy on perhaps a somewhat big hand, maybe AK or AQ, and perhaps in a really evil twist AA or KK. So I just called, hoping for a kingless or aceless flop so my pair wouldn't be beaten.

Instead, I got a dream flop. K-Q-4 with two spades, so now I had trips. I checked, as anyone with a brain would in that scenario, and the guy makes a really big raise, close to half the pot. Now I'm thinking he has either nothing and is just doing a continuation bet, or he has a flush draw. I decided to re-raise all-in for two reasons -- to eliminate any potential flush, or to incite a call if he did indeed have pocket aces or even AK. Really, the only thing that would've screwed me at that point would've been if he had pocket kings...

...which, of course, he did. He called and I literally screamed in horror. The turn and river brought no relief, and I was out of the tournament almost as soon as I had started. On the bright side, I was able to catch the last quarter of the Packers' victory.

On the down side, I will now fear a slap every time I meet Kyle for the rest of my natural life. I suppose this is what it's like being in the witness protection program, except I don't have a guy tapping my foot and calling me Mr. Thompson. Kyle, rather insultingly, was knocked out of the tournament just a few minutes later, thus robbing me of rationalizing my defeat by saying I lost to the PokerStars Blogger Champion or something.

* I had an item here about how I think I'm developing a spider-sense after spending so much of a childhood reading Spider-Man comics, but it really seems redundant after that poker item. Spidey surely would've seen those pocket kings coming. Actually, there's a topic --- Peter Parker was forever strapped for cash, so why didn't he just get into gambling? With an early-warning sense telling him to avoid big poker hands, bad numbers at the roulette wheel, bad cards from the blackjack dealer, etc., Peter could've been filthy rich.

* My favourite part of the blitheringly stupid Hills/Laguna Beach phenomenon is the after-show. Two of MTV's talking heads (some chick and Eugene Levy's son, proving once again that talent isn't genetic) lead a discussion of the previous episode that seems to have been gleaned from the Chris Farley Show. "Remember when Lauren and Spencer watched that movie?" "That was awesome!"

* In my mind, Tony Danza begins and possibly ends every sentence with his signature 'Ey-oh.' "Ey-oh, Mona, have you seen Angela?" "Ey-yo, I ordered a pork chop with apple sauce." And so forth. My question is, does Danza refer to the song 'Ayo Technology' as 'Ey-yo, Ayo Technology' or just as 'Technology,' in some sort of two-negatives-make-a-positive scenario?

* There's pain, there's severe pain and then there's losing a fantasy football match by 0.28 points. Even worse, it was against a team who was already down a man with Reggie Wayne on a bye week, and the manager didn't replace him in the lineup. Many could be blamed for this failure, but the finger is pointed squarely at two -- Todd Heap and the Chicago Bears defense. Heap left the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, to which I can only reply 'Suck it up, princess!' It's only a hamstring! I tore my left hammy this morning and I'm fine! I'm jumping around! As for the Bears, they were single-handedly taken apart by Adrian Peterson, who ran for (let me check the stats) 84602 yards and 158 touchdowns.

Man, between fantasy football and the slap bet, I had a pretty rough weekend. Rough in a silly way, but rough nonetheless.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Music Reeve U's

* Listened to In's good, very good. I think it may be Radiohead's third-best record. They actually (get this) released some songs that sound like songs with a melody and everything! Revolutionary! I don't want to sound like one of these asses who's all "Aw man, Radiohead got weird, man, why can't everything be as good as Just?" I didn't like Amnesiac, and I thought Hail To The Thief was a poor effort. It was just a case of Radiohead making music that didn't particularly appeal to me. No big deal. I still thought they were a good band, if edging into the Beck/Ryan Adams/Prince territory where idea of the musician as an ideal was better than the actual music produced by said musician. Happily for me, In Rainbows was a more fun listen and hopefully a sign that Radiohead can regain their spot as one of my favourite bands. Just about every track stood out on first listen, with Reckoner getting special mention as my favourite song of the moment.

* Hey, did you know that Radiohead got its name from a Talking Heads song? Yes, that's right, it's once again time for Mark to indulge in his latest bit of obsession with the Talking Heads. I've been finding more and more TH stuff on YouTube, and my searches led me to this cover of Burning Down The House by Tom Jones and the Cardigans. Now, just hearing 'Tom Jones and the Cardigans cover Burning Down The House' is awesome, and the first half of the track kicks as much ass as you'd expect. But am I crazy, or does it just seem to run out of steam with about a minute to go? A song made of pure kinetic energy like BDTH should never go flat, but it seems like nothing after the main lyrical portion of the track is done with. Check out the video yourself and see what you think. Whatever happened to the Cardigans, anyway? They seemed like the kind of band that should've made a bigger impact than they did. If nothing else, they should've gotten some mileage out of the fact that Nina Persson was one of the few universally-agreed upon hot women in music.

* By the way, did I never review Icky Thump? A quick search of my blog archive tells me I didn't. Well, to limit it to a sentence, it's my favourite album in years. My list of favourite albums from the 2000's has a new #1 -- yes, it's that good. Big memorable riffs, catchy melodies and probably most of all, great lyrics. I'm one of those who concentrates more on music than lyrics in a song, in some cases not really even taking note of the words until I read them in the liner notes. On Icky Thump, however, the lyrics stood out as being particularly memorable and witty. Jack White isn't reinventing the wheel with epic song topics or anything; he's just very skilled at pouring old wine into new bottles, which is essentially the theme of the White Stripes' rock-blues-country music anyway. My silly reason for enjoying the disc is that it has some of my favourite song titles in recent memory. When a song is called "I'm Slowly Turning Into You," it pretty much has to be good, eh? Also, I have Effect & Cause written down somewhere on my list of potential short story titles, so I'm biased in that regard. Wait, did I say biased? I meant litigious. See you in court, White.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Questions taken from the NBC website for the upcoming relaunched version of the classic sports/entertainment show....

1. Who is your current employer and occupation? What job pays your bills now?
Freelance writer! I have no employer! No man controls me! I stand on mountain tops with the wind blowing through my hair/loose skin follicles! As for the bills, losing J.P. Losman may be the best thing that ever happened to them.

2. What levels of education have you completed (please specify school and major)?
The University of Western Ontario, home of the world's worst football team and tuition fees higher than the inhabitants of the marijuana lab in the biology building. Oh wait....the SECRET marijuana lab in the biology building.

3. What is the next milestone in your life if you do not make the show?
Not make the show? That's loser talk! If you don't select me because YOU suck (not me), it's on to Kid Nation. My special ladyfriends tell me I have the maturity of a 10-year-old anyway.

4. Do you work out? If so, what types of activities and how often?
I type a lot. My fingers are thus thrice as strong as those of a normal man. I am heretofore unbeaten in thumb wars. I often walk (to the kitchen to get more Pepsi), lift weights (sometimes the Pepsi can is heavy) and practice martial arts (trying to attack a Pepsi machine that stole my dollar).

5. What sports organizations have you been a member of?
I had an unassisted triple play in eighth grade softball. I won a 'closest to the pin' competition in minor golf lessons. I played power forward for the New Jersey Nets from 1999-2001. I practiced for three weeks of high school junior football.

6. Who are your current roommates? How well do you get along?
My roommate is also my landlord. It makes for awkward conversations when I complain to my roommate about my landlord.

7. What would your friends say are your best qualities?
I bothered my pal Claire on MSN until she provided an answer, and she says I'm "laid back and good at making other people feel comfortable, but also a good motivator and leader, and that's a good combo. And obviously a good, very very witty writer." Unfortunately, Claire is already dating someone, so this praise doesn't help me at all. Damn you, platonic friendships! My buddy Eric, who I'm more pleased to be in a platonic friendship since we're both heterosexual men, went with "all around hilarious guy to hang out with; could base a reality show around his life." See?! Kid Nation! Come on!

8. What would your friends say are your worst qualities?
Apparently I have an 'unrealistic body image' and am an 'arrogant douchebag.' I think my worst quality is that I attract bad friends.

9. What magazines/newspapers do you read?
I read Juxta Magazine, the fictional weekly published by my friend Lori and I. You see, it's a combination men's AND women's magazine! It's such an original idea! I don't read newspapers since I'm allergic to newsprint. I'm told newspapers have material online, but those are lies.

10. How are you competitive in your every day life?
Just today I punched an old Korean woman out of the way at Dairy Queen. I couldn't take the chance that she would order a banana milkshake and take the last banana. As it happened, the Dairy Queen's banana supply was plentiful, plus they had that banana-flavouring stuff to boot. So in theory, my punchin' was unnecessary. I'm rationalizing it by assuming that she was going in for major jaw surgery anyway.

11. What do you think was the hardest stunt on a previous American Gladiators?
The female contestants trying to avoid staring at the spandexed packages of the male Gladiators.

12. What pets do you own now, or have owned at any time in the past?
I once owned a snake named Ferguson, and a hamster named Tippy. Keeping them in the same cage was, in hindsight, a mistake. Oh well, I never fed Tippy anyway, so his death was imminent.

13. Have you had any experiences that have traumatized you? If yes, please explain.
I had a horrible accident competing on the original American Gladiators that took years of physical rehab to fix. I still have nightmares. Hopefully I won't be doing any American Gladiators-related activities on American Gladiators. I don't know if I could take it!

14. What is your unique and personal motivation for wanting to compete on the show?
When I was very young, I used to be picked on a lot. One kid I went to grade school with once told me that I would always remain a fat slob and never amount to anything. So I want to go on American Gladiators in order to prove that kid wrong.

15. How would you use the American Gladiators prize money?
To hire a hitman and kill that kid from grade school. Then get liposuction so I can stop being a fat slob.

16. Who do you live with and for how long?
I've lived with Tony Montana for the last six months. It has had its ups and downs. On the bright side, there are giant piles of sugar around the house, so my coffee is never unsweetened. But Tony can be a bit of a jerk. He told me my womb was so polluted. I mean, that's just uncalled for. I hired a team of assassins to shoot him 98 times, but he just kept taunting.

17. Please list your last three jobs.

a) Blowing up balloons at a county fair.

2) Handing out candy at a country fair.

d) Rim-rolling at Tim Horton's.

So in summation, I'm very experienced at blowjobs, handjobs and rimjobs.

18. Do you have any military experience? Are you (active/reserve) military now?
I'm the member of a top-secret branch of the Canadian government devoted to the overthrow of Trinidad. Among our allies, Tobago. We figure once they go down, the Canadian soccer team will have a better chance of getting through CONCACAF qualifying and make it into the World Cup. Total cost of this program to taxpayers? Still less than the gun registry.

19. What conversations are 'off limits' for you at a dinner party?
How much food I'm putting into my mouth. Whenever I try to tell the conversationalist to screw off, I start choking due to the massive amount of food in my mouth. By the way, I eat like a hog.

20. What is the most daring and dangerous thing you have ever done?
I forgot about the lead singer of Simple Minds. He was PISSED at first, but got over it. Dodged a bullet there. Well, not literally -- the lead singer of Simple Minds is pro-gun control.

21. If you were going to be in People magazine, what inside info about you would be put up next to your picture?
"With little fanfare, Mark helps out at a soup kitchen every Thursday night. He works security and keeps out undesirables, a.k.a. the homeless. He also helps by eating the soup."

22. Describe your most embarrassing moment.
I once shat myself while watching Saw. Hmm, maybe this isn't that embarrassing since I was in my washroom on a toilet at the time. I use copies of the Saw films as toilet paper.

23. What is the weirdest thing about you?
See literally every other answer.

24. If you had Aladdin's lamp and three wishes, what would you wish for? Rule: you can't wish for money or more wishes?
I'd wish I was a little bit taller. I'd wish I was a baller. I'd wish I had a girl who looked good I would call her. I wish I had a rabbit... oh wait, only three wishes? Okay.

25. What is your strategy to win the game?
Cheating. Wait, no, that's not it... it's....cheating a lot.

26. What are you afraid of or dislike? Circle a number 1-5. How much do you fear? 1 = No Fear 3 = Dislike 5 = Can't Stand

Falling -- 5
Closed in Spaces -- 5
The Ocean -- 3, I preferred most of the other songs on Boy
The Dark -- 5
Heights -- 5
Drowning -- 5
Fire -- 3, I preferred most of the other songs on October
Flying -- 1, fuck you, birds!
Lakes -- 14

27. How much skill do you have at...? (Be honest) 1 = Never done it. 3/4/5= Recreational. 7 = World Class.

Base jumping -- 7
Being bratty -- 7
Bungee jumping -- 6.999
Cliff diving -- Pi
Contact sports -- 14
Gymnastics -- VII
Hang gliding -- 7
High diving -- 1. Seems made-up to me.
Manipulating people -- Two zillion
Motorcycle riding -- 7
Risky behaviour -- 6.66
Rock climbing -- 1. I have never climbed and/or mounted Dwayne Johnson.
Roller blading -- Care Bears countdown
Rope climbing -- 4
Scuba diving -- 3
Skiing -- 2
Skydiving -- 1
Snowboarding -- Who's that coming, from somewhere up in the sky? Moving fast and bright as a firefly...
Strategizing -- 95.9 CHRW
Street fighting -- What's the highest number possible? A googleplex? Put me down as four googleplexes.
Surfing -- 10, as in hanging
Tempting opposite sex -- 6.9
Whitewater rafting -- 7
Working out -- 7

List other talents in the space below
I can revive the dead merely by singing "I've Just Seen A Face" by the Beatles. It only works if the person hasn't died from having their face ripped off.

28. Have you ever been treated for any serious physical illness or injury that could affect your ability to participate in the show?
I recently had my elbow removed due to botched cosmetic surgery. Frankly, it hasn't hampered my life at all. Elbows are way overrated, dude.

29. You must list all television shows you have appeared on (reality, game show, scripted, etc.) Even if you did not win anything, you must disclose all television appearances.
60 Minutes, Supermarket Sweep, To Catch A Predator, Growing Pains, The Hogan Family, Animaniacs, this one commercial with the guy from the Goodyear ads but it wasn't a Goodyear ad, Survivor: Etobicoke, Frasier, Emily of New Moon, test patterns

30. How do you feel about opening up yourself and your life as an 'open book' on national television?
Just as long as you don't hurt my 'spine.' HA HA HA HA I LOVE BOOK JOKES

31. Do you know anyone who has or is applying for the show American Gladiators?
My evil twin Clark. I can't stop him from applying since I am he and he is me. We have the same skillset except he has a goatee and thus do worse in the 'who shaves quicker' event.

32. Do you now or have you ever owned or appeared on any web sites?
Well, this blog. Also, I'm a contributor to, mostly in the 'tornado' section.

33. What other reality TV shows have you applied for?
KID NAAAAAAAAAAAAAYSHUN. No offense, but if I ever got the go-ahead from them, I'd ditch Gladiators so fast your head would spin. Like, I'd walk off the set in mid-Eliminator.

34. Are you currently being considered for any other reality shows?
Julie Chen came to my house the other night to discuss my being on Big Brother, but I think she was really just trying to seduce me. She wore nothing but lingerie and clothes over top of them. Hard to misinterpret those signals.

35. When will you NOT be available between now and October 2007 to come to LA for one week?
Uh, it's already October 2007. I may need to find a wormhole.

36. Do you smoke?
Nine packs a day.

37. Can you swim?
Nine packs a day. Wait, I guess that didn't make much sense. I meant to say I swim while smoking.

38. What is your height and weight?
Three metres tall, 40 stone

39. In the lines below, write a short poem or rap

I'll do both. This is "Ode to a Farmer, feat. Chamillionaire"

There once was man named Glen,
Who tried to get eggs from a hen,
He did his best
To reach into the nest
And then grabbed the ho's fine booty, muthafucka

40. Draw a picture of yourself

This is me carrying a chainsaw. Please excuse the lack of genitalia, I was being family-friendly.

41. Below please list the people you would like to appear with you on the show to help support you.

Supporter #1
Name: Kate Winslet
E-mail address:
Home #: 555-WINSLET
Cell #: No idea
Supporter's relationship to you: Object of fantasy
Why do you want this Supporter with you on stage?: Geez, who wouldn't?

Supporter #2
Name: Derek Bell
E-mail address:
Home #: Not sure if he had a landline on the yacht
Cell #: Ditto
Supporter's relationship to you: Trench guy
Why do you want this Supporter with you on stage?: Expert towel-waving and rally cap-wearing skills.

Supporter #3
Name: Osama Bin Laden
E-mail address:
Home #: 555-DIALYSIS
Cell #: He's not in a cell, but rather still at large. Thanks for nothing, George Bush!
Supporter's relationship to you: Nemesis
Why do you want this Supporter with you on stage?: We can invite him to the show and then we can nab him! Hello reward!

42. Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense, either as a juvenile or as an adult?
I was once arrested in a scenario remarkably similar to that of Ruben "Hurricane" Carter. The difference is that instead of being accused of murder, I was accused of jaywalking while carrying a giant papier-mache sculpture of a man picking his nose. Also unlike Carter, I was not a middleweight.

43. Have you ever had a temporary or permanent restraining order entered against you, or has anyone tried to obtain a temporary or permanent restraining order against you?
Apparently I've had several filed against me, but then I got a restraining order filed against all process servers in the tri-country area, so they couldn't approach me to serve the other restraining orders. Aha!

44. Is there any pending litigation against you?
Metallica is suing me over those Napster songs I downloaded seven years ago.

45. Have you ever been evicted? If yes, please give details, places and names.
Public nudity, SkyDome hotel, 6/31/2004 and 2/30/2008. Yeah, it's going to happen again.

46. Have you ever been the subject of disciplinary proceedings or actions in school, in the military, at work or in any other context?

Mark: What did you want to see me about, Mr. Leland?
Leland: Mark, I've.. been reviewing your work.. Quite frankly, it stinks.
Mark: Well, I ah.. been havin' trouble at home and uh.. I mean, ah, you know, I'll work harder, nights, weekends, whatever it takes..
Leland: No, no, I don't think that's going to do it. These reports you handed in. It's almost as if you have no business training at all. I don't know what this is supposed to be!
Mark: Well, I'm uh, just--tryin' to get ahead..
Leland: Well, I'm sorry. There's just no way that we could keep you on.
Mark: I don't even really work here!
Leland: That's what makes this so difficult.

47. Have you ever done or been involved in anything that would reflect negatively on you or on the Program, the Program producers and/or the television network and stations that broadcast the Program if you are chosen to participate in the Program?
I thought I was applying for American Gladiators, not for a remake of The Program. Oh well, could I have the Omar Epps role?

48. Have you ever created a website or posted any materials on any website?
Pfft, yeah. I was the first guy to ever post anything on any website. It was an argument that Spider-Man could take Aquaman in a fight. It was an enthralling discussion.

49. Have you appeared in any magazines, publicly disseminated photograph, advertisements or the Internet?
I appeared in a publicly disseminated photograph used in an advertisement in an online magazine. It was me starring in a version of the Coppertone ad. My white naked ass is a sight to behold.

50. Do you know anyone else who is applying to be on the Program?
Oh lord, this was already question #31! Should I get Clark to answer this one?

51. Is there anyone among your family, friends, or work colleagues that would object to your appearing on television?
My friend Elvis often shoots his TV if he dislikes what he sees, so it's possible he might react badly to watching me compete poorly. A co-worker of mine used to date Turbo but ended up left at the altar, so that might be an issue.

52. Please list below anyone you know or have known who is now or has been in the past two years an officer, director, employee, agent or representative of NBC Universal Inc. or its parents (GE Company Inc.) or affiliated or subsidiary companies.
Sure, plenty! Conan O'Brien, Max Weinberg, Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, Howie Mandel, Jay Leno, Jason Lee, Eddie Steeples, Jaime Pressley, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Lorne Michaels, Tracy Morgan, Kristen Wiig, Will Forte, Bill Hader...oh wait, do you mean people I know PERSONALLY? Oh. In that case, just the first twelve.


54. List all TV game or contest shows that you have appeared on whether or not you won a prize.
Man, this was already a question too! If you must know, I won $50 playing Plinko on Price Is Right. Bob Barker laughed at me, so I jacked his car after the taping. In a way, we both won.

55. Is there anyone among your family, friends or work colleagues that would object to your appearing on television?
Ok, seriously, this was just asked four questions ago. Come on, application! I feel like I'm chewing Doublemint gum. I swear, one more silly question and I won't bother signing up for...

Part IV Eligibility Requirements and Releases

1. You must be at leas 18 years of age

2. You must be a legal US resident of the 50 United States and/or Washington, D.C.

3. You must not be a candidate for public office and must agree not to become one until after one year after the initial broadcast of the episodes of the Program in which you appear.

...ah crap. Well, it's all a moot point anyway. I'm a 15-year-old Canadian who is currently Prime Minister. Darn it. I wanted to battle the Eliminator!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why Baseball Is Awesome

Dane Cook? Seriously? Screw that...he doesn't get to do romantic comedies with Jessica Alba AND be in commercials extolling the love of the game.

Here's why you love baseball.

-- How a player hitting .230 against the rest of the league has a .660 career average against an ace pitcher.

-- Turn back the clock night.

-- The fact that people who flunked out of high school math will spend hours calculating ways to measure a player's stats.

-- Players like Garret Anderson, Tim Wakefield, Bernie Williams, Geoff Jenkins or Jason Varitek. Guys who are All-Stars but a shade below being superstars who have stayed with one club their whole careers (or in Varitek and Wakefield's case, one club for a really long time) and do their job day in and day out. These guys won't make the Hall or anything, but they will be heroes in those towns for decades.

-- The fact that sometimes, the game comes down to the shittiest guy in your lineup at the plate and you can't pinch-hit for whatever reason, so you just have to suck it up and pray.

-- When that shitty player actually comes through with a miraculous hit.

-- That time in eighth grade softball when I completed an unassisted triple play. I will remember this until the day I die.

-- Sliding hard into second base.

-- A player breaks a team record that has stood since 1932.

-- A one-two-three inning takes 15 minutes because of two pitching changes because the manager is worried about lefty-righty matchups.

-- When the game is close in the ninth, and the star player who had the day off comes in to pinch-hit.

-- Half of the free world wouldn't piss on the New York Yankees if they were on fire.

-- The fact that people will be talking about the Mets' collapse for decades to come. Holy crap, that was pathetic.

-- Nolan Ryan headlocking Robin Ventura and feeding him punches.

-- Field of Dreams. This movie only works with baseball. For some reason, I just feel the concept would totally fall apart or get silly if the sport was, say, hockey or football.

-- The beer vendor at the Rogers Centre who looks about 100 years old, has a voice that sounds like velvet death and advertises his product by asking who wants "ice.....collllllddd......beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer."

-- The batter continually hits foul balls to stay alive in a key situation and to wear out the pitcher.

-- Organ music.

-- VORP.

-- A really good mascot. What I wouldn't give to spend a day as the Phillie Phanatic.

-- Hitting a teammate in the face with a shaving-cream pie while he's doing a post-game interview.

-- The double-switch.

-- An old-timey hand-operated scoreboard.

-- When two announcers will spend five minutes comparing a guy's batting stance to seven other players, all of whom played anywhere between 10 and 40 years ago.

-- Two leagues, four playoff spots in each. So when you get into the postseason, it means something.

-- Sacrifice bunts.

-- That moment when you realize your team's fattest and/or slowest player is actually going to try to stretch that single into a double, and you cheer harder in that moment than you've ever cheered in your life.

- The original theme to This Week In Baseball that they still play a snippet of at the end of each show.

-- This Week In Baseball, period.

-- Bill Veeck, one of the greatest human beings to ever live.

-- The fact that getting to first, second, third and home is still a common sexual euphemism.

-- The replay of a home run swing, when you can see all of the fans slowly standing up in the background to watch it go

-- When a 30-something career minor leaguer finally makes his big league debut.

-- Ignoring a teammate when he's pitching a no-hitter or perfect game.

-- The minors.

-- This article. It rates a bit on the Rick Reilly scale, but it's still pretty cool.

Feel free to include your own.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Great Live Music

I've had 10 Cent Freeze Pops listed on my blog roll for a few months now, in spite of the fact that the site has more or less gone defunct. It turned from a very clever sports blog (featuring one of my favourite sports blog bits, the review of an old Sports Illustrated issue from 20 years ago) into a blog that highlighted great musical performances found on YouTube. Now it's been over a month since the last post, which makes me think they've gone dark for good.

But their legacy isn't dead yet. I've cherry-picked a few great live performances from YouTube for your viewing and aural enjoyment. May you rest in peace, 10CFP.

Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road, New York City, 1975

The beauty of the Boss is that almost all of his songs can either be played at full blast with the E Street Band going nuts and making it the best rock tune ever. Or, alternately, they can all be played acoustically or on piano/harmonica and they sound just as good if not better. Case in point, Thunder Road. The debate over whether this song is better built up or stripped down is the equivalent of the Lincoln-Douglas debates amongst Springsteen fans.

Paul Potts, Nessun Dorma, Cardiff, 1997

This might be my favourite one of the bunch. This phone salesman performs on Britain's Got Talent, says he's going to do opera, and everyone is semi-expecting a William Hung-esque debacle. Instead, he cleans house. I love the gradual "Holy shit" look that develops on Simon Cowell's face.

Beck, Clap Hands/One Foot In The Grave, Saturday Night Live, 2006

Sort of in the same that SNL isn't really 'cutting-edge' humour anymore, the musical guests are rarely anyone off the beaten path or who don't deliver a rote performance of their hit single. The nadir was Ashlee Simpson a couple of years ago. Beck, however, is never one to half-ass anything. I'll see if I can talk my family into a cover version during Thanksgiving next week.

John Entwistle and the Who, 5:15 bass solo, London, 2000

Good gracious. Wouldn't it be great to be as good at something as John Entwistle was at playing the bass? Oh wait, I am. coughcoughlovemakingcoughcough.

Pulp, Common People, Glastonbury Festival 1995

I saw this on Muchmusic back in 1995 and it made a Pulp fan for life. Remember when Much actually played concerts? God, I promised myself this wouldn't turn into yet another "Much is garbage" rant, and yet here it is.

White Stripes, One Note Concert, St. John's, 2007

Ok, it's not the most illicit Meg White video I could've posted, but.... The best part about the White Stripes' elaborate Canadian tour this year has been the fact that, well, they're Americans. You'd think the Hip or Nickelback or Our Lady Peace would attempt the totally cross-Canada tour, but instead it fell to the duo from Detroit.

With or Without You, U2, Washington 1992

I forget if it was Bono or the Edge who went on record as saying what they liked most about WOWY is that instead of having a big ripping guitar solo at the end, the guitar just sort of trails off, yet is still powerful in its own way. Well, in this live performance, Edge just says sucks to that ass-mar and busts out a big ripping solo. Bono kicks in the legendary "we'll shine like stars..." additional lyric that is necessary for a truly A+ live version of With or Without You.

Arcade Fire, Neon Bible, Paris, 2006

All 5,469 members of the Arcade Fire crowd into an elevator and do a sound-check on Neon Bible before taking the stage for a show in Paris. All I can say is the drummer is using a freakin' magazine for percussion, and it's as awesome as thirty Super Bowls.

Talking Heads, Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place), Stop Making Sense, 1983

There's no better word for this song than 'pretty.' If it was a bird, it would be petted by that blind kid in Dumb & Dumber in spite of it having a broken neck. David Byrne's lamp dance is pretty cool. And, just because I can't even get through one post without mentioning Lost, apparently this song was supposed to be used in the third season premiere for the opening scene when Juliet is crying in her house. There was some kind of a rights issue that resulted in 'Downtown' being used instead, though if you look at that scene, you can see Juliet putting a Talking Heads CD into her stereo.

Kanye West, Gold Digger, Saturday Night Live, 2005

This one's got it all. A string orchestra led by a pregnant conductor using just one arm to conductor. Face paint on the cello players. Steve Carell. The Myers cameo before the song --- this performance took place just a couple of weeks after the infamous "George Bush doesn't care about black people" incident" --- was literally the funniest thing that happened all season on SNL. It was not their strongest year.