Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jon Hamm's John Ham and Philadelphia's Phillies

Another day, another Mad Men-related comedy video. This is arguably the best skit from this past weekend's Saturday Night Live, which was one of the better SNLs I've seen in recent years. The great Jon Hamm kicked ass in many a sketch, but never moreso than in this sketch, where he pitched his namesake toilet-time snack. "Feel like a dummy yet? Because you should."

Top seven best things about this week's SNL...
7. Don Draper's Guide To Picking Up Women
6. Hamm's impression of James Mason in the Vincent Price sketch
5. The Vincent Price sketch in general
4. Will Forte's awesome impression of Vincent 'Pete Campbell' Kartheiser in the Mad Men/A-Holes sketch
3. The sketch about Will Forte as a sex offender going trick or treating
2. Amy Poehler not on Update because she had her baby, and thus isn't on SNL anymore --- thank God!
1. Jon Hamm's John Ham


And look at this, the Phillies won the World Series! Sweet! The team I wanted to win actually won, which almost never happens. And all they had to go was win a three-day long game of, apparently, cricket. Some might say the Phillies are the champions since they won the World Series, but someone wins that every year (except 1994...thanks for nothing, Selig). How often does someone go a perfect 7-for-7 in postseason predictions?! Not very friggin' often, my friends! Woooooo! Booyah! Where's my celebratory mascot?!

Oh that's right! Boomshakalaka! Who's the baseball expert now?! Surely this makes up for, um, leaving A-Rod off of my all-time teams, but still, let's focus on the 7-for-7 here!

Fun World Series fact: World Series MVP Cole Hamels is married to Heidi from Survivor: Amazon. That's right, the airhead blonde who thought she was god's gift to everything and later posed in Playboy. Clearly, the Rays should've tried to have Hamels throw the Series in exchange for peanut butter.

Not so fun World Series fact: Brett Myers' wife won't like that her hubby now has a heavy diamond-studded ring for his punching hand.


Only two more days to vote in the Ghostbusters poll! Someone vote for Winston so my blog's readership doesn't look like a bunch of racists!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

D('oh)on Draper

Oh, The Simpsons. You've still got some bullets left in your gun after all these years.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sarah Palin's Legacy

Wait, make that her 'Legace,' as in St. Louis goalie Manny Legace. Apparently Legace hurt himself after he slipped on the carpet placed on the ice before the game so Palin could make another ceremonial puck drop before last night's Kings-Blues tilt.

Swing voters in Missouri, this aggression should not stand. The Republican party has now cost your beloved home-state team its goaltender! The Blues' playoff hopes* could be down the toilet! The Cup drought continues! All is lost! Vote Obama! He has the good sense to stay away from hockey like pretty much every other American politician in history that isn't from Detroit or Minnesota. Hell, Obama has had to put up with Bill Wirtz's nonsense for all his life, so he probably wouldn't go to an NHL game if you paid him.

* = okay, maybe not 'playoff hopes,' given that the Blues are one of the few teams that might challenge the Leafs for the league basement this season. Hey wait a second....if St. Louis is worse off, then this might hurt Toronto's chances at the #1 draft pick! Dammit Palin!


To conclude the 'Worst Best Picture' poll, the winner is Titanic, with four votes to Chicago's three. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that it came down to modern movies, but even still, c'mon people, Titanic isn't in the bottom third of Best Pictures. Do people hate boats all that much? Maybe it's icebergs. It's hard to love an iceberg --- they're so cold.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hot! Live! Music!

Talking Heads, Thank You For Sending Me An Angel

Yet another 'Stop Making Sense' clip. The two dominant theories about the lyrics are that Byrne was writing about either a newborn baby or the migratory patterns of birds. David f'in Byrne, ladies and gentlemen. Also, if Rolling Stone's next top 100 list is the Top 100 Stable Rock Star Marriages, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz have to be #1, right? They're rock music's answer to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. This marks the only time that anyone will ever compare Chris Frantz to Paul Newman. I mean, hey, Frantz is a terrific drummer, but he looks like Geoffrey Rush's bumpkin cousin.

Jerry Orbach, Be Our Guest

I was going through my mom's old record collection a few years ago when I came across her Broadway cast recording of Chicago from 40 years ago. I was shocked to learn that the Richard Gere role was played by none other than bad-ass cop Lennie Briscoe himself. Turns out Orbach had been a major Broadway star for decades before he ever picked up the badge on Law & Order. What next? Detective Ed Green singing songs from Rent? DA Arthur Branch running for president? Detective Mike Logan marrying a high-maintenance butterface? That's crazy talk!

U2, One Tree Hill

Some U2 fans point to the band's four concerts at the Point Depot in Dublin in December 1989 as the definitive U2 live experience, at least of the 1980's. The New Year's Eve show is held in particularly high regard, and a bootleg of the show was a hot commodity for fans. Of course, in this era of YouTube and downloading, the whole idea of bootlegs seems as quaint as tying a typewriter to your Edsel. This is why Pearl Jam have released roughly as many bootlegs as there are stars in the sky. Anyway, I was surprised to learn that One Tree Hill isn't the theme song of 'One Tree Hill,' the cheesy teen drama. I mean, it's not bad news, since I'm pleased U2 didn't sink to the level of CW teen dramas. But it's just odd --- imagine a sitcom about a hemophiliac priest called Sunday Bloody Sunday, but U2's song wasn't the theme. There would be outrage. There would be a riots. There would be blood in the streets.

Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright, Careless Whisper

'Careless Whisper' is one of those songs where literally every artist who covers it manages to surpass the original. Oh, Wham! The unintentional comedy never ceases. My favourite Wham! fact (taken from Wikipedia, so who knows if it's true) is that they were known in the United States for a while as Wham!UK, since another band was already known as Wham! in America. Like, with the exclamation mark and everything. Awesome. I would pay to see a double-bill of Wham!UK and Bush X.

Radiohead, Big Ideas

Ok, so this one isn't exactly live, or is it exactly Radiohead. Apparently the band held a contest for fans to remix their song 'Nude (Big Ideas)' and this original entry was the winner. I wonder if the guy thought up his big idea for the remix while, in fact, nude. Lord knows all of my wittiest material is written in the buff. In a related story, I've been fully clothed for this particular post. Sigh.

R.E.M. and Thom Yorke, E-Bow The Letter

Ok, so this one isn't exactly Radiohead either, but hey, at least it's live. I've always respected the fact that Michael Stipe uses a music stand to hold the lyrics during live performances, basically admitting, "Hey, I write a lot of weird shit, so I need a cheat sheet. You gotta a problem with that?" I also admire his self-confidence in wearing a dress in public. If it were socially acceptable, I'd wear dresses all the time. They're comfortable as hell. Eddie Izzard has the right idea. Pop quiz: what's the funniest thing about Thom Yorke's performance here? a) When he's introduced, about 400 people in the 70,000 seat stadium cheer, or b) how he gradually and hilariously gets more "Thom Yorkeish," for lack of a better term, during the performance. He goes from zero to 100 as he gets more and more into the song.

By the way, this performance was from the Free Tibet concert in 1998. How'd that whole 'freeing Tibet' thing work out, anyway? I stopped paying attention the moment the show ended.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Best Magazine Covers Of The Year

So the Magazine Publishers Of America have announced their selections of the best magazine covers of 2008, even though we still have over two months left in the year. Maybe the MPA are on some wacky Grammys-esque bullshit timeline of what a 'year' actually is. Anyway, take a look at the choices in that link, and then fire on back to read my comments....

......finished? Excellent!

* Cover of the Year. No dispute here, that Spitzer picture ain't getting any less funny. Best of the non-finalists: EW's 1930's glamour shot of Tina Fey. Am I picking this cover because I'm in love with her? Yes. Yes it is.

* Best Celebrity Cover. As hard as it is to ignore a lovely gold-tinged picture of Ms. Alba, it's equally hard to top a shot of Willie about to make sweet love to his guitar. But, to be fair, a gold-tinged picture of a guitar would've beaten a picture of Willie about to make sweet love to Jessica Alba. I think that one would've been meant for the cover of Oh, God, No! Magazine. Best of the non-finalists: I'm actually shocked Lohan's "I'm just like Marilyn Monroe, really, I am!" cover didn't make the final cut. Same with Angelina Jolie's tribute to the wonderbra on Vanity Fair.

* Best Concept Cover. I'm not sure any of these were particularly award-worthy. If forced, I would've voted for the Time one, I guess. But really, the New Yorker has been around for umpteen decades and only now did they strike upon the idea of doing a playing card-style flip of their logo for the cover? And I'm not even sure how the Vanity Fair one of Madonna even counts as a 'concept.' Unless as part of their green issue they cut Madonna open and counted her rings to see how old she actually is. Best of the non-finalists: the SI Bizarro Baseball cover, which I'll discuss later.

* Best Fashion Cover. Pretty lame to have a two-way tie out of only four nominees. You might as well just hand out a Participation ribbon while you're at it. The New York 'LOOK' cover probably deserved it more than the Gisele shot. I may be biased just because I'm one of the few straight males on the planet that doesn't find Gisele particularly attractive. Am I crazy, or is she something of a butterface? Best of the non-finalists: either Time Out Chicago or the ESPN Magazine cover featuring the Williams sisters.

* Best Leisure Interest. This is apparently the 'sports' category as well, since I was wondering how they couldn't have any sports covers at least be nominated. I'm not crazy about the winner or either of the final two nominees. Looking at the finalist list, there are at least two better options (the Departures and New York Times Magazine entries were striking), and going with sports, I would've stuck the Sports Illustrated 'Bizarro' cover of the Tampa Bay Ray punching the Yankee. Bonus points for that one since it was drawn by one of my favourite comic book artists of all time, the great Mark Bagley. If I ever do a 'greatest artists named Mark' list, he'll probably take the number one spot. Tough break, Marc Chagall!

* Best News Cover. Ah, Spitzer. You are truly a living joke. What's up with the dopey Time cover making the final cut? That's not even in the five best Obama-related news covers, let alone one of the best overall. Best of the non-finalists: Esquire's Obama cover, Newsweek's Obama cover, or for non-Barack options, the Audubon cover. Polar bears are awesome.

* Best Service Cover. Gotta love BBQ, and while I'm more interested than cooked meat than the environment, I probably would've voted for the Wired cover. Best of the non-finalists: hmmm, I can't really pick one out. I think the three nominees were actually the best ones. Well done, MPA!

* Best Coverline. And the Spitzer cover's Lord of the Rings-esque domination of these awards continues! Take a bow, Governor!

Also of note.....the MPA's top 40 magazine covers of all time Ellen made the cut? Seriously?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Movie Reviews

(there are spoilers all up in this bid'ness, so be warned if you plan on seeing any of these movies and want your viewing experience to be as pure as the driven snow)

The Al Pacino/Robert De Niro movie is actually called 'Righteous Kill,' which you probably weren't aware of because a) it's such a generic title and b) literally everyone just calls it 'the movie with Pacino and De Niro' (or, depending on your preference, 'the movie with De Niro and Pacino'). This is the third time the duo have paired up in the same movie, though RK is the first time they've actually shared any significant screen time together. The first two films that paired both Bobby D and Ally P were Godfather Part II and Heat....thus making Righteous Kill into the red-headed stepchild of the De Niro/Pacino trilogy. It's a shame that such a pairing of actors had to be wasted on such a mediocre film, but then again, given how Pacino and De Niro have pretty much phoned in their roles for the past decade, it's maybe not overly surprising.

The plot, such as it is, concerns a serial killer who's targeting criminals. Hey, it's Dexter! Actually, no, that would've led to a much shorter movie, as Dexter would've been back to Miami before the clueless cops in this movie even showed up at the crime scene. I know I warned about spoilers earlier but I won't reveal the big spoiler of who the killer actually is except to say that it's pretty easy to figure out for anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of mystery structure. DN and P keep their phone-in streaks alive with a pair of cliched cop characters that aren't likable nor interesting, and frankly, you'd have to think that 20 years ago a script like this would've never even gotten into either actor's hands. Seriously, what the hell happened to these guys? De Niro had an epic 1997 with both Jackie Brown and Wag the Dog, but has done almost nothing but self-parodying crap ever since. Pacino's last epic year was 1999 (The Insider and his pre-game speech in Any Given Sunday), but since then has been equally mediocre, with the two exemptions being his role in the underrated Christopher Nolan thriller Insomnia and his critically-lauded role in the Angels in America miniseries. Somebody needs to light a fire under these guys and remind them that they're members of a rapidly shrinking pool of capital-L Legendary actors.

Other notes about the film.....nobody can quite mentally prepare themselves for the spectacle of seeing a scene between De Niro, Pacino and Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson. Words failed me. I was looking for an analogy to describe the Pacino/De Niro series, but this is the best one right here: De Niro and Pacino are to 50 Cent in terms of acting what Godfather II and Heat are to Righteous Kill in terms of quality of film.....De Niro's love interest is played by Carla Gugino. In case you're wondering, yep, 28-year age difference. And there's a love scene. Doggy style, if you're wondering. It took my eyes over five minutes to roll back into place.


You know an actor has officially reached a certain status in your life when you go see what looks by all accounts to be a perfectly generic movie just because they're starring in it. This explains why I actually paid to see Ghost Town; it's a nice enough little movie, but come on, it has five-day rental written all over it. But that's the power of Ricky Gervais. I think I'd pay to see the man read the phone book at this point. Gervais does enough Gervais-esque things to generate some laughs, including a funny scene with Kristin Wiig and a giant lawyer, but overall, unless you're a big Gervais fan, you can probably wait until this one hits the video stores.

Is this really all I have to say about this movie? Just one paragraph? Huh. Told you it wasn't much. Maybe I'll use the space to talk about the current Hollywood scuttlebutt claiming that Gervais is the trendy choice to host the next Oscar ceremony. Brilliant.


Hamlet 2 is the kind of movie that on paper should've been really funny, but it just didn't quite come together to raise itself above the 'average' mark. I'll give Steve Coogan credit, however, he does everything in his power to carry the movie on his back. He tries to wring every drop of comic juice out of his goofy drama teacher character but the material just isn't quite there for Coogan to work with. I did appreciate that we got to see so much of the actual Hamlet 2 play, which was built up so much throughout the film and ended up paying off pretty well, and I also enjoyed the fact that Elisabeth Shue was such a good sport about portraying herself as a complete joke.

You know what's funny? Back in high school, I actually wrote a --- serious --- idea for an actual sequel to Hamlet. The movie makes the obvious point that almost everyone's dead at the end of the first one, but I think my way around that was to have Hamlet's ghost start appearing to Horatio or something. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that upon coming up with this idea, I felt like a real King Crap of Turd Island, thinking that I had come upon an ingenious premise that would go on to be a dramatic masterpiece. I felt so confident about this that I thought they'd dig up Shakespeare's grave and toss what's left of him aside so I could be buried there instead. Then again, for most of that second semester in twelfth grade, I wore sunglasses all the time and that seemed like a good idea too, at the time. In a totally unrelated note, I didn't date much in high school.


Tell No One is probably the best non-Batman related film I've seen this year. It's a mystery/thriller from France, based on a (reportedly terrible) novel by Harlan Coben, and it is the rarest of modern cinematic mysteries --- it actually has a great plot. I've long been a fan of mysteries in all forms, going back to reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books and watching everything from Perry Mason to Father Dowling Mysteries as a child. Perhaps as a result, movie mysteries leave me unsatisfied both because it's hard to fit a complex, crime novel-esque plot into a 100-minute frame, and also because such films lack complexity, it's usually really easy to figure things out. Tell No One suffers from neither of these problems. The plot is thick and dense and wonderfully complicated, as you sort of have things figured out in your head but you don't actually learn the whole truth until the final scenes. Apparently the ending of the film is different than Coben's original novel, a change that Coben himself approved of, and probably with just cause given how little sense the original ending made (at least, according to the afore-link-tioned Kyle review).

The other major change from the novel is that everything is shifted to France, which immediately adds much more flavour and personality to the story. Director Guillaume Canet --- who was, inexplicably, as the guy who played DiCaprio's buddy in The Beach --- really keeps everything taut and suspenseful and throws in a few beautiful little shots here and there just to keep us visually as well as mentally entertained. The acting is uniformly terrific, and a quick check to the IMDB confirms that the actress who looked like a dead ringer for Kristin Scott Thomas actually was Kristin Scott Thomas. Huh. Who knew she spoke fluent French?

Oh yes, just a warning, the movie is in French. With subtitles. This really offends some people, and let me just put on my film student hat here for a second....there we go. Now, where were we? People who hate subtitles? You're fucking idiots. It's words on a screen, who gives a shit? For a lot of modern action movies I find myself actually using the DVD captioning anyway due to either overly loud background music or shitty sound editing, so really, captioning in some ways can enhance a picture. The only thing lamer than people who won't watch subtitled movies are people who won't watch black-and-white movies; not to sound judgmental, but such people shouldn't be allowed to procreate. Whew, good thing I said 'not to sound judgmental' or else that might've come off as really judgmental.


My friend Jordan probably had the best summation of Burn After Reading. He said it was the kind of movie that didn't seem like much after you first watch it, but the more you think about the amusing parts, the more amusing they seem, and the film would probably improve in subsequent viewings. I tend to agree with this verdict, so I guess I probably shouldn't properly review Burn until I've seen it a second time.

.....uh, well, I've already started the mind, I'll just post my reaction to the second viewing in a blog post coming your way in, say, 2011. Burn After Reading follows the classic Coen formula of adding layers (both comic and confusing) to what is basically a very simple plot. This is just the first time they've actually ended a movie with two characters actually detailing everything that happened, and acknowledging that everything was confusing. That scene, by the way, was hilarious. I think I'd pay to see a regular series just of David Rasche trying to explain things to a confused J.K. Simmons. I've been a fan of Rasche ever since his days on the shitty ol' NBC sitcom Nurses --- now THERE is an obscure reference --- and it's good to see him finally get a good part in a good movie.

The main criticisms of Burn After Reading are that nothing really happens, but come on, whatever really 'happens' in Coen movies? Take their three most famous pictures: a guy loses his rug and a trophy wife skips town, then complications ensue. A hitman is after a guy who finds some money in a truck in a desert, complications ensue. A car salesman hires two goons to kidnap his wife, complications ensue. Everything ends up being a clusterfuck sooner or later, and it's just a question of who is left standing in the end. Life is messed up, these stories are messed up, and you might as well burn them after watching because they won't make any logical sense anyway --- that's the Coen motto.

It's quite possible that if Brad Pitt had been born just a wee bit uglier, he might be hailed as one of the finest comic actors in Hollywood today. Pitt (and Clooney as well, in fairness) really hit home runs when given funny material to work with. Clooney has a running gag about running after sex that....oh lord, it just hit me as I'm writing the words down, it's literally a 'running' gag. Goddamn you Coen Brothers and your wit. I also wouldn't dream of telling you about the contraption that Clooney's character is building in his basement. Rest assured that it's totally out of nowhere and its revelation will make you laugh, then you'll be silent due to shock for a few seconds, then you'll start laughing again due to the WTF-ness of it all. Stay tuned for upcoming book, "The WTF-ness Of it All: The Films of Joel and Ethan Coen" coming to bookstores in 2011, just as soon as I finish that blog post about my second viewing of this movie.


Death Race was just a mistake. My buddy Dave was in town for a visit, and given that he is a connoisseur of terrible movies (particularly those with Jason Statham), I figured it would be right up his alley. It ended up being a turgid mess that left both of us feeling down about. It wasn't even laughably bad enough to generate some good sarcastic comments. The only two people more disappointed than we were must've been Joan Allen and Ian McShane, two quality actors who must've sat around their trailers throwing back shots of Jack and wondering aloud why they ever signed on for such a piece of crap. I'll bet McShane threw down more f-bombs over picking this script than he did in the entire series of Deadwood. The only thing that could've saved Death Race is if it had featured a tricked-out Toyota Echo as the main vehicle.


Body of Lies reminded me of Burn After Reading, in a way. Big stars, a big director, seemingly important premise...yet whereas Burn After Reading's point was to be pointless, Body of Lies just ended up feeling a bit pointless. It's a perfectly solid 7/10ish kind of movie, but when you bring together DiCaprio, Crowe and get Ridley Scott directing, one thinks the bar would be raised just a little bit more. At the very least, it's always good to see Crowe sink his teeth into a good role, and Mark Strong's bad-ass Jordanian intelligence chief character almost steals the whole movie. The guy is basically a Jordanian version of James Bond, a man so well-dressed that even I (whose idea of high fashion is to not wear sneakers) was impressed by the quality of his suits. Also, 'Mark Strong' happens to be one of my aliases if I ever become a porn star. In fact, 'Body Of Lies' was also going to be the working title of my first porno flick.

Porn Actress: Wait, I thought you said you had a nice body.
Me: Baby....all lies.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Holy Crap, I Bought A CD!

I know! I was shocked too! I actually walked into a CD store*, picked out the disc I wanted, took it to the counter, paid for it and walked out with the CD in a little bag. There's even a receipt to prove that this transaction actually took place in real life, and not in some fevered corner of my tiny mind. It was the first actual CD I've bought since picking up 'In Rainbows' in January, so if you knocked up your girlfriend on the same day that I bought Radiohead's record, you would have cradled your newborn infant in your arms by now and suddenly realized that being a father was the most magical feeling in the world. Wait, second-most amazing feeling.....eating a Quizno's chicken carbonara sub when you're really hungry is the actual #1.

* = Let's be honest, they really should be called 'entertainment stores' by this point. T-shirts, posters, even a few books, and, I'd wager, probably more DVDs than CDs. How long will it be before the concept of a CD store is outdated? 15 years? Ten? Oh, some form of vintage music shops will always be around, but in the future they're going to be novelties, like finding a haberdashery. Sure they exist, but they're hardly on every street corner. Our kids are going to ask us, "A whole store just selling CDs? How odd."

Anyway, the album in question was 'Everything Is Borrowed' by the Streets. I've loved Mike "The Streets" Skinner ever since I randomly saw the video for Fit But You Know It one late night on MuchMoreMusic. This track was from the Streets' album A Grand Don't Come For Free, which I'd argue is the best concept album of the last decade. His sound is basically pop-tinged hip-hop, except he raps in a mock-Cockney accent. What's not to like? Given that I generally find hip-hop boring as hell, the fact that I'm so deep in the tank for the Streets is a pretty impressive feat for ol' Mike Skinner.

Well, perhaps a bit less in the tank after this past record. It was good, but only around 7/10 good rather than a real standout disc. The problem, oddly enough, was that Skinner (normally known for his sarcastic and witty lyrics) decided to pretty much leave the sardonic stuff at home and get more introspective. I'd describe the lyrics as like a motivational poster backed by some pretty strong beats. There's a track about the environment, one about how his mother (presumably) is the 'strongest person he knows,' a track about living your life to your fullest extent, even a song about how some religious figures are --- get this --- sometimes not honest. It's possible that Skinner's lyrics were written by a first-year MIT student. But, hey, lyrics aside, the music is still as strong as ever. Actually, it's a bit of a reversal from A Grand; on that album, the music was only average while the words were fantastic, while this time around, the music is catchy as hell and the lyrics aren't terribly introspective. But still, overall, Everything Is Borrowed gets the Mark seal of approval. It's a seal of an actual seal, but the seal is clapping. My seal of disapproval shows a seal taking a dump on the American flag.


Speaking of new albums, I also recently heard an album that is three years old, but was essentially new to me. The disc in question was 'Some Cities' by Doves, which I remember buying after enjoying Doves' previous record, though this new one didn't quite move me as much. How forgettable was it? Well, I listened to it once and then literally forgot I owned it until a random clean-out of my shelves a few weeks ago. I didn't even remember listening to it once, in fact, but I know I must've since my homemade piece of paper listing the track lengths was in the front cover.*

* = In my past life as a pizza delivery boy, I often listened to music in the car but didn't want to constantly stop and start tracks for fear of ruining the flow. So, I merely timed the songs to coincide with my various delivery routes. For example, if I was taking a pizza across town, I'd put on a couple of longer songs. If I was just taking one around the block, I'd just keep the system off unless there was some really odd little 1:00 track on the record. Most CDs have the track lengths somewhere on the back cover or in the jacket, but for the ones that didn't, I just wrote one of my own and stuck it into the front cover sleeve for quick reference. God, I'm smart.

Doves, for those of you who have never heard of the group, are an English 'rock' group who were actually rather popular back in the early 00's. I think 'Some Cities,' in fact, went to #1 on the charts over in the UK. I used the quote marks because Doves don't really rock terribly hard --- I'd describe their sound as Coldplay, except somehow duller. At least three-quarters of the songs on 'Some Cities' meander terribly, which is likely the reason I put the album away never to be uncovered except perhaps by that high-voiced mummy archeologist in the Discovery Channel's "I Love The Whole World" commercial. Apparently Doves have really been dragging their asses on a follow-up record, which seems an odd move for a band that you'd think would be quick to strike while the iron was hot. I mean, by now, even Coldplay have discovered that songs can move at a quick pace. The times, they are, a'becoming quite different.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hayden Panettiere Owns John McCain

Yikes, how lame is the McCain campaign when the star of a fifth-rate sci-fi show is scoring points off of you? As the old political adage goes, "lose the cheerleader, lose the campaign."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If An Election Falls In The Forest...

To get to my apartment from Etobicoke you first need to wait out The Slowest Advance Left Signal Ever. This makes returning home from a 'quick' jaunt to the store into an exercise in patience, since part of what makes TSALSE so unique is the fact that there are invariably at least a half-dozen cars in front of you no matter what time of the day you're on the road. And of that group, there's at least one clown who doesn't realize the advance is on, and thus his foolish lack of awareness will cost you precious nanoseconds during the 0.94 seconds that the advance left is actually flashing. Sometimes I try to avoid this delay by simply going through the intersection, turning right at the next block and then coming back around to the same intersection from the south --- this is perhaps best characterized as the 'stay in constant motion' theory espoused by Ray Liotta's character in Cop Land.* The trouble is, though, that these blocks are pretty lengthy, so oftentimes one can try to be clever and take the shortcut, only to find that you're getting back to the corner in roughly the same time you would've been waiting in line, if not even later.

So, in short, the election was Stephen Harper trying to beat an advance (or advancing?) left, only to find himself basically right back where he started. The difference is that when I try to make the shortcut I'm just costing myself a few pennies worth of gas --- Harper cost the taxpayers millions with this pointless campaign. Nice work, PM.

Not that the other parties did anything to help themselves. The Liberals lost several seats, thus giving Stephane Dion a ticket on the Loser Express, engineered by Stockwell Day and with Kim Campbell taking tickets. The NDP won four more seats, which might stiffen Jack Layton's mustache a bit but otherwise doesn't mean anything. The Bloc left with 48 seats, and came back with 48 seats, which is the definition of comme ci, comme ca. The Greens lost their one seat, so at least they have the 'reduce' part of 'reduce, reuse, recycle' mastered.

The truly sad part of the night is that my own home riding, London-West, elected Conservative Ed Holder. Yes, that's right, ol' Sue Barnes isn't just on the Loser Express, she's tied to the tracks. What a shameful day for my home riding. In the end, my decision to vote NDP ended up being a momentary lapse of insanity that ran out basically the moment I hit the 'publish' button on the blog. I indeed kept my Liberal-voting streak alive in order to try and hold off Holder, but it was for naught. Yikes, I hope my temporary endorsement didn't cause a surge of NDP votes in London-West that allowed Holder to split the vote....then again, like, five people read this blog. I'm not Ralph Nader quite yet. For one, he advocated seatbelt safety, whereas seatbelts so enrage me that I once broke into a car just to gnaw through one like some type of rabid wolverine. It was the first and last time I ever mixed cough syrup with Fanta.

Anyway, back to the election. This is perhaps the darkest day in Byron since the Buns-A-Plenty closed down. On the bright side, my Toronto residence is located in the riding of Gerard Kennedy, who won himself a seat on Tuesday in what will hopefully serve as the unofficial kickoff to his next Liberal leadership campaign. So at least I have one place to go where I'm not lorded over by some Conservative douchebag (note to self: pretend the whole country isn't technically being lorded over by such a douchebag).

* = isn't it unfortunate that this third-rate police drama will make it much more awkward for any plans to make a biopic about the life of American composer Aaron Copland? And what if Sly Stallone is the lead in that film, too?! Confusion.


I've cut short the last movies poll since it's apparently that virtually nobody has seen any of the Best Picture winners from the 1920's. I'm declaring Broadway Melody the winner with a whopping single vote. I'm just glad Sunrise didn't get the nod, since that movie still holds up well today.

So this is it, the big finale! Which is truly the worst Best Picture in Academy Awards history? This highly scientific poll will surely determine the answer!


Tonight's iTunes playlist.....

Can't Stop Falling In Love, Cheap Trick
Lady Madonna, The Beatles
I Will Wait, Hootie & The Blowfish
The Train, Outkast
The Show Must Go On, Queen
Kentucky Rain, Elvis Presley
Soap Star Joe, Liz Phair
Wild Night, Van Morrison
Street Mission, U2
Let Me Sleep, Pearl Jam
Gettin' In Tune, The Who
Neverlost, Outkast
Helmet Head, Great Big Sea
Neverlost, Smashing Pumpkins
The Good Life, Weezer
Jigsaw Falling Into Place, Radiohead
When You Wasn't Famous, The Streets
Showtime, Nelly Furtado
On The Run, Pink Floyd
God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters, Moby

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sarah Palin, hockey, goddesses (not, Sarah Palin: Hockey Goddess)

So apparently Sarah "Settin' Women In Politics Back 40 Years, You Betcha" Palin is going to be dropping the ceremonial first puck at Saturday's Rangers/Flyers game in Philadelphia. The GOP campaign staffer who okayed this should be fired immediately.

One of my earliest political memories is watching the 1992 MLB All-Star Game in San Diego. The first pitch was thrown out by the legendary Ted Williams, who was born in San Diego, and thus was greeted with wild applause. The 'other' first pitch was then thrown out by then-president Bush, who was welcomed by a solid wall of boos. It was wonderful. Bush stood there with a frozen smile on his face, waving like an idiot, and not even Williams' presence could calm the crowd down. At Clinton HQ, they must've been giving each other high-fives (and, possibly, blowjobs).

Now, obviously, the TV audience for the Rangers-Flyers tilt will be far, far less than the MLB ASG, but still, is it really a wise move by the McCain campaign to put their punchline of a VP candidate in front of a packed hockey crowd in a blue state? Especially in, of all places, Philadelphia? The home of arguably the hardest fans in all of sports? This isn't going to end well. Hopefully Palin has his moose-shooting rifle with her to fend off an angry guy in a Bobby Clarke throwback.


This is my biggest problem with organized religion....there just aren't enough living gods or goddesses anymore. Where's Neil Gaiman when you need him?

This story deserves the Fire Joe Morgan treatment....

Wrapped in red silk and adorned with red flowers in her hair, Matani Shakya received approval from the priests and President Ram Baran Yadav in a centuries-old tradition with deep ties to Nepal's monarchy, which was abolished in May.

Wait a second, was the practice abolished, or were the ties to the monarchy abolished? I'm confused.

The new "kumari" or living goddess, was carried from her parents' home to an ancient palatial temple in the heart of the Nepali capital, Katmandu, where she will live until she reaches puberty and loses her divine status.

She can lose this divine status just by reaching puberty? Ouch. You can learn more about this practice in the popular children's novel Are You There Buddha? It's Me, Matani.

She will be worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists as an incarnation of the powerful Hindu deity Taleju.

A panel of judges conducted a series of ancient ceremonies to select the goddess from several 2- to 4-year-old girls who are all members of the impoverished Shakya goldsmith caste.

One judge, Richard Alpert, was angered when Matani reached for the knife instead of the book, and then didn't invite her to the special school.

The judges read the candidates' horoscopes and check each one for physical imperfections. The living goddess must have perfect hair, eyes, teeth and skin with no scars, and should not be afraid of the dark.

In a related story, the Chinese Olympic commission used the same criteria to pick its opening ceremony anthem singers. I know things are rough in Nepal, but....scars? Yikes.

As a final test, the living goddess must spend a night alone in a room among the heads of ritually slaughtered goats and buffaloes without showing fear.

Hold on! Flag on the play! Fifteen yards for traumatizing! If you can get a three-year-old in a room o'heads and they don't show fear, you should probably consider them to be a budding sociopath rather than a living goddess. That's some serious Dexter-level shit there.

Having passed all the tests, the child will stay in almost complete isolation at the temple, and will be allowed to return to her family only at the onset of menstruation when a new goddess will be named to replace her.

"I feel a bit sad, but since my child has become a living goddess I feel proud," said her father Pratap Man Shakya.

Winner of the Associated Press's 2008 Quote Of The Year Award. I guess follow-up questions aren't allowed under their religion.

During her time as a goddess, she will always wear red, pin up her hair in topknots, and have a "third eye" painted on her forehead.

Devotees touch the girls' feet with their foreheads, the highest sign of respect among Hindus in Nepal. During religious festivals the goddesses are wheeled around on a chariot pulled by devotees.

So except for the third eye, the goddesses are basically Christina Hendricks from Mad Men. Nice work if you can get it. Okay, I guess there was no scene in the show involving forehead-foot touching, but hey, I'm presuming John Slattery's character was into some kinky stuff.

Critics say the tradition violates both international and Nepalese laws on child rights. The girls often struggle to readjust to normal lives after they return home.

"Matani, clean your room!"
"No way Mom, I'm a goddess! That's below me!"
"Tampons are on your shopping list, right?"

Nepalese folklore holds that men who marry a former kumari will die young, and so many girls remain unmarried and face a life of hardship.

See, this is the biggest difference between our culture and Nepalese culture. Even with a folklore curse, I'll bet lots of guys over here would line up to shag a former goddess, if for no other reason than the bragging rights. Just look at how guys drool over the Olsen Twins just because they used to be on Full House, even though they look like defective garden gnomes. If you did date an ex-goddess, though, it's admittedly hard to make small talk.

"So, where'd you go to grade school?"
"I spent my adolescence having people touch their foreheads to my feet."
"So, a foot fetish, eh?"


My friend James, a Red Sox fan, recently made the following his MSN Messenger headline in the wake of Boston's series win over Los Angeles: "I would proudly father Jason Varitek's children."

James, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya, I do not think that word means what you think it means. You're basically saying...

a) you would impregnate Varitek if he was a woman, or if the technology seen in the Schwarzenegger classic 'Junior' actually becomes a reality


b) if anything untoward happened to Varitek, you would offer to act as guardian for his children much like how Bruce Wayne stepped in as guardian of Dick Grayson after his parents were murdered by a Gotham City mob boss

Either option seems, frankly, kind of odd. In summation, fuck the Red Sox. Go Rays go.


You may remember my post encouraging people to vote for Tom Cheek for the Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award for broadcasting excellence. Well, Cheek did indeed end up in the top three in online voting, thus earning him a spot on the final ballot of ten. Interestingly, the ballot has some additional Canadian content with Jacques Doucet (longtime Expos radio broadcaster) and Dave Van Horne (longtime Expos TV broadcaster, current Marlins TV guy). Even Tony Kubek is a former Blue Jays TV guy.

If I had to guess, I'd say the award will go to either Cheek, Joe Nuxhall, Lanny Frattare or maybe Jerry Coleman. But really, come on blue-ribbon panel, vote for Cheek!


Start with hockey, end with hockey. Quick and dirty NHL picks....

Eastern Conference
1. Pittsburgh....a whole season of Crosby should offset the loss of Hossa
2. Ottawa....their last gasp before their core of players totally falls apart
3. Washington....holy crap, this division stinks
4. Rangers....presumably Gomez and Drury start playing like their contracts
5. Montreal.....a lot of things went right last year, this year's a bit of a course correction
6. Philly....booing fuels them, so Palin's appearance will make them the Hulk
7. New Jersey.....yay Sutter!
8. Toronto....realistically this spot will go to Tampa or Buffalo, but the Leafs just beat the Cup champs, so I'm stoked! Toskala for Hart Trophy!

Western Conference
1. old, but so good.
2. San Jose....Marleau has one more season to prove himself before I finally admit he's overrated
3. Calgary....they'd easily win an inter-Canadian tournament, if that's any consolation
4. quote my pal Matt, BRAD RICHARRRRRDS!
5. Anaheim....holy crap, the Pacific is stacked. Three great teams....uh, and the Kings and Coyotes.
6. the end of the season, people will finally know how to pronounce Toews' name
7. Minnesota.....zzzzzz.......
8. Vancouver....Luongo kills himself for 82 games to get the Nucks in the playoffs. They promptly get swept in the first round. Luongo punches through a top hat.

Penguins over Leafs
Devils over Senators
Capitals over Flyers
Rangers over Habs
Wings over Nucks
Sharks over Wild
Flames over Blackhawks
Stars over Ducks

Penguins over Devils
Rangers over Capitals
Stars over Wings
Sharks over Flames

Rangers over Penguins
Sharks over Stars

Sharks over Rangers

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Would You Vote For This Man?

I sure as hell wouldn't. That poor cat looks terrified. I wouldn't want a prime minister who scares cats. I want one who just claims to talk to the spirits of his dead dogs, like Mackenzie King. This is why, for the first time ever, I'm going to vote NDP. Jack Layton seems like the kind of guy who would really go overboard about the death of a family pet. You know, have a full funeral in the backyard, erect a little gravestone, maybe even play 'Taps' on a harmonica. How would the other leaders react? I can see Stephane Dion being surprised to learn that he even owned a dog. Elizabeth May would grind the dog's corpse into some kind of biodegradable fuel. As for Gilles Duceppe, he'll be covering up the animal's death due to his illegal dog-fighting ring. It's sort of like Michael Vick's operation, except instead of getting dogs to fight other dogs, it's simply Duceppe himself against a series of Dobermans in staring contests. Duceppe is undefeated. This is also how he won the Bloc leadership. He just stared at Michel Gauthier until energy beams eventually shot out of Duceppe's eyes and into Gauthier's mind, sort of like the scene in Ghostbusters II when the Vigo painting takes control of Peter MacNicol.

That paragraph made no sense. Anyway, surprisingly, dead canine disposal is not my top criteria for picking a new prime minister. I'm not sure if I really have one, to be honest with you, given the fact that this might be the most pointless election in recent Canadian history. If I owned a farm, I would be ready to bet it on another Conservative minority government, so we'll be right back to where we started. The only thing different will be Stephane Dion's quick resignation as Liberal leader since....well, geez, this is just a downright John Tory-esque performance from ol' Stephane. Talk about a non-entity. Dion has conducted his campaign with the calm demeanor of Frasier and Niles in the episode where they buy a posh restaurant.

Am I throwing my vote away by voting NDP? Probably. My riding has been dominated by the Liberals since 1993, when Sue Barnes came to power and then proceeded to become the most invisible Sue that isn't a member of the Fantastic Four. She is the definition of a back-bencher. She is to the Liberal Party what Jason Frasor is to the Toronto Blue Jays. Why, then, has she kept being re-elected? Well, as much as I'd like to think it's because my fellow London-Westers are too smart to fall for the Conservatives' bullshit, it may also be due to the fact that the Cons' candidates have, weak, to say the least. For example, in the last federal election, the Cons ran Al Gretzky, uncle of Wayne. This seemed to have been his only qualification for the job. I don't even know what joker is running this time around --- Burt Yzerman? Glen Federov? Tom Geoffrion?

It's unfortunate that, due to my still-temporary living arrangements in Toronto, I can't vote in my TO riding's race, which is a humdinger. Peggy "No Relation To Steve" Nash vs. Gerard "GMK" Kennedy, in a titanic showdown of political heavyweights...well, maybe light-heavyweights, but still. Now that's a battle to sink one's teeth into. Though I'm voting NDP overall, I'd like to see Kennedy win just so he's in good position to take the reins of the Liberal leadership from Dion in the manner of a child telling his bumbling dad to move away from the computer screen so the kid can properly set up the father's e-mail account.

So yeah, NDP it is. Maybe. I dunno, I might end up voting Liberal anyway, I'm a creature of habit. Though I feel the NDP gets a bad rap sometimes (I mean come on people, Bob Rae's premiership was over a decade ago, and given that he ended up running for the damn Liberal leadership, it could be argued that Rae wasn't a deal NDPer anyway), the NDP's platform of "we're the least incompetent" isn't exactly inspiring. I'll have to just make up my mind on election day. By the way, are we sure that we couldn't just have a write-in campaign for Barack Obama instead? He could run both countries, I'd be cool with that. The funniest part of this election season is how entirely overshadowed it's been by the American presidential campaign. I could have an in-depth discussion about the merits of Obama vs. McCain with about 50 people I know, but literally nobody gives two shits about this Canadian election. It's depressing from a patriotic standpoint in another way, too. The United States seems ready to elect a progressive leader* whereas we'll be stuck with Stephen Harper. How unfortunate. This will really hurt my national superiority complex. It will take a lot of Tim Horton's coffee before I'm able to recover.

* = I'm relieved that, according to recent polls and barring some huge turning point, Obama is going to win by anywhere from comfortable-to-landslide numbers. I was initially worried that Sarah Palin would end up being the new hat that would help Malibu Stacy McCain win over the impressionable voters while Lisa Lionheart Obama sat on the shelves, but it turns out I just got my Simpsons analogy incorrect. Turns out McCain was Mr. Burns and Palin was the three-eyed fish.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Alternate Casting

I LOVE these. I'm fascinated by alternate-reality scenarios. For example, what if my blog was written by Mark Wahlberg? Think about it. Anyway, these are just a few of the original casting ideas for some of the most memorable TV shows and movies of all time. This is almost entirely based on internet scuttlebutt, so who knows how true some of it is or isn't.

* Depending on who you talked to, Burt Ward (best known as Robin on the old Batman TV series) either turned down the role of Benjamin in The Graduate, or he and the film's producers wanted him in the role, but the studio shot it down feeling that nobody would take him seriously due to his previous work as Robin.

* Eric Stoltz had already spent a couple of months shooting as Marty in Back To The Future before he unceremoniously got the boot in favour of Michael J. Fox. Apparently Fox was the original first choice for the role, but there were scheduling issues between the film and Family Ties that didn't get worked out until the movie had already gone into production. Robert Zemeckis felt so strongly about Fox that he got the studio to basically let him re-start filming the movie with MJF on board.

* In case of a TV schedule that did end up interfering with a major film series, Tom Selleck's commitments to Magnum PI kept him from starring in Raiders of the Lost Ark as Indiana Jones.

* Speaking of Ford, he also lucked out by getting the role of Han Solo over other auditioners like Kurt Russell, Billy Dee Williams, James Caan and (as memorably spoofed once on SNL) Christopher Walken. Caan, by the way, was also an early choice to play Randle in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

* In an early draft of the pilot script for LOST, the character of Jack was going to die midway through the episode. Basically, if you've seen the actual first episode, Jack would've been the one killed by the Monster instead of the Oceanic 815 pilot. The idea would've been that Jack would've been built up in the first half of the episode as the heroic doctor and leader of the castaways, and thus his sudden death would've been more of a shock to the viewers and a hint as to the show's unpredictability. Jack would've been played, in this scenario, by Michael Keaton --- even the show's promos would've hyped it up as "Michael Keaton stars in Lost" in order to increase the surprise.

* Also on the topic of Lost, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia and Dominic Monaghan all originally read for the role of Sawyer. Yunjin Kim read for the role of Kate and producers liked her so much that the roles of Sun and Jin were specifically created with her and Daniel Dae Kim in mind.

* Molly Ringwald, Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan all turned down Julia Roberts' role in Pretty Woman. Al Pacino apparently was very close to accepting Richard Gere's part. How fucking creepy would that movie have been with Pacino and Ringwald?

* Lisa Kudrow was originally cast as Roz in Frasier and shot the original version of the pilot, but she was replaced after producers felt that the Roz character needed a stronger personality to be able to stand up to Frasier (and, presumably, since Daphne already filled the void of 'oddball female character for Frasier to raise his eyebrow at').

* Speaking of Friends, Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston each initially read for the roles of Rachel and Monica, respectively. Jon Cryer read for the role of Ross.

* And, speaking of Cox, she was the original choice to play Teri Hatcher's role in Desperate Housewives, but turned it down because she wanted to take a break from TV.

* William Devane was the first choice to play Sam Malone on Cheers. This tidbit will be of great interest to my friend Dave, a.k.a. the only man in the world who does a William Devane impression.

* Al and Peg Bundy were originally going to be played by Sam Kinison and Roseanne. Yikes.

* Jason Sudeikis's role as Tina Fey's boyfriend on 30 Rock (and his impression of Jim Halpert on SNL) are said to be partially inspired by the fact by that Sudeikis was considered for the role of Jim on the Office.

* Alan Alda and Sidney Poitier were initial contenders to play President Bartlet on The West Wing.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nuit Blanche Devereaux From Golden Girls

'Nuit Blanche' sounds pretentious, but I guess if the city of Toronto called it 'White Night,' that would've sounded vaguely racist, and the last thing this city needs is a bunch of KKK members showing up. Frankly, I would've gone with the Spanish translation....Noche Blanca. That sounds bad-ass as hell.

Though, in all fairness, 'bad-ass' is perhaps not what the city's artistic community was going for. For those unaware, Nuit Blanche is an arts festival that uses the city itself as a mural. Various public locations and businesses open themselves up to performance artists, who transform the spaces into a wide variety of WTF. I was planning to spend the evening watching the also-artistic merits of Toronto FC soccer, playoff baseball and Kimbo Slice getting knocked the fuck out, but my pal Dave and his posse came down from Ottawa for the evening and invited me out for the festivities. If nothing else, I got a lot of exercise walking my lazy ass around the city streets. The highlights included...

-- the windowed sides of City Hall being used to project Tetris and Pong games. It was pretty sweet. The only downside was that the guy who was playing Tetris was brutal --- just a myriad of ill-advised, game-ending moves. It was a far cry from my legendary 211-line game in 1994. *dusts off hands triumphantly*

-- the mascots at Lamport Stadium. About 30-40 different people in mascot gear danced around the stadium grounds. The trick was that beds and chairs were set up around the field so the mascots could rest, take a break and openly take off their outfits to break the illusion. To quote the festival website, "the dwindling of enthusiasm and the breaking of the illusion dash expectations as a celebration of futility and pathos." Good times. However, since we were there early in the night when all the mascots were still fresh, we just enjoyed ourselves without experiencing any pathos, so....suck it, display organizer. It didn't hurt that as we were there, the stadium sound system was cranking Hey Ya. Okay, we're a little more than a year away from the end of the Aughts, so it's okay to start having ___ Of The Decade discussions. That being said, Hey Ya, song of the decade? It's got to be on the shortlist.

-- talking to God. Or, at least, God as filtered through a guy in a robe and white beard, sitting in front of a video camera and green screen and answered questions asked of him through two stringed cans. A couple of people in shirts and ties were also present with a computer in order to print out 'prayer receipts.' It was the most spiritual experience I've felt since the last time I listened to a Spiritualized record.

-- the 'Scream' display at Union Station. Eight video screens showing nothing but famous screams from film history. Yet, oddly, nothing from any of the Scream movies. Highlight of the experience was Dave excitedly shrieking 'Ohh, the Scorpion King!' like a little girl.

-- Shoeless Joe's. Okay, not technically an art display, but we were hungry. We did admire the fine framing of the sports memorabilia in the restaurant.

There were also the large number of displays on Queen Street that we, uh, well, walked right by, but hey, I figure we got artsier by osmosis.


From Nuit Blanche to Apres-Midi Baseball. I joined a softball team two weeks ago and we had our second game this afternoon. Now, joining this team wasn't without its pitfalls. For one, I haven't able to wear my Packers jersey the last two Sunday afternoons, which is clearly the reason for Green Bay's last two losses. Also, I haven't played any kind of baseball in six years. Fortunately, I've yet to wholly embarrass myself thus far, though I did make a few misplays in today's game, a 20-12 loss. It was a far cry from the previous game, where I rapped out a couple of hits in a 28-8 victory (p.s. not a lot of pitching duels in this league).

The only casualty thus far is my hamstring, which I pulled? Strained? Tweaked? Footballers often use the word 'tweaked' for hammy injuries, so I'll just use that one. Anyway, I tweaked it running the bases, thus taking my speed down to a Molina-esque pace. It's not the biggest loss given that I was only at about a Pierzynski-esque pace to start with, but even still, I'll have to make up for it with extra aggressiveness on the basepaths. I'll have to sharpen my cleats.

"Uh, Mark, don't you just wear running shoes when playing?"

Hmm, you're right. Okay, I'll just sharpen the flat bottoms of my shoes. Or maybe the ends of the laces. Aw man, there's gum on the bottom of my shoe! There goes my next 20 minutes.....


We're nearly at the end of our 'worst Best Pictures' polling, with just two full decades left. For the 1950's, it was Gigi who took the (dis)honours with three votes, while Around The World in 80 Days won two votes and Greatest Show On Earth and American In Paris each took a vote apiece. For the 1940's, How Green Was My Valley (a.k.a. the movie that beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture), won with three votes, while one vote each went to Rebecca, Mrs. Miniver and....Hamlet?? What the hell? The Olivier Hamlet was awesome. Philistines. My favourite Olivier story: he and Dustin Hoffman are starring together in Marathon Man, and Hoffman shows up looking like hell. Olivier asks him what the problem is, and Hoffman says he's been up for days in order to portray his character's paranoid state after being tortured. Olivier just looks at him and says, "Why not just try acting?" Pwned. I'll bet if I had told this story before the poll, Hamlet wouldn't have gotten a vote.

Anyway, the 1930's options are up now, so pick away.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Baseball Predictions

Dodgers over Cubs....with Manny going full-out, the Dodgers are a much different team. I can see the Cubs having a letdown given that they've had a playoff spot clinched for a while now, and while it sounds goofy and superstitious, they're the Cubs. Remember, this is pretty much the same team that folded like a cheap suit against the D-Backs last year. LA seems to have the momentum going right now, so I'll grit my teeth and pick LA in five.

Phillies over Brewers....CC can't pitch every game, thus leaving the Brewers' fate in the hands of Jeff Suppan, Yovani Gallardo and/or Dave Bush. Yikes. I could this series something like last year, when the division-winning Phillies were wiped out by the red-hot wild card team, but I dunno, I think the Brewers may have blown their wad. Phils in phour.

Red Sox over Angels....Boston just seems to have LAA's number in the playoffs. Call it the curse of Donnie Moore. Boston has had loads of problems with injuries, but they've still got to be considered the favourites. If Josh Beckett is healthy, then Boston wins in four. If he isn't 100 percent, the Angels have a chance.

Rays over White Sox....Tampa beats the tired Central champs. One might think that picking the inexperienced Rays is crazy, but I've learned not to underestimate playoff teams from the state of Florida. The parallels to the 1969 Mets are too hard to ignore. Does this mean James Shields is the next Tom Seaver? Well....probably not. It's funny, Nolan Ryan was a reliever and spot starter for the Mets team, so maybe that means Jason Hammel is the next Nolan Ryan. If this means Hammel busts out the headlock and noogie-punch during his next bench-clearing brawl, I'm all for it. Now, this pick is by far the one I'm least sure about, since the ChiSox could definitely pull the "hey, we're not tired, we've got the momentum" trick that so many teams in late-season pennant races have rode to victory in recent years. Just to say one good Sox-related thing, Paul Konerko will have a monster series. Bank it.

Phillies over Dodgers, seven games. This series could go either way, who knows. My biggest hope is that Vin Scully is allowed to call one of the playoff games in Los Angeles. Seriously, who would rather listen to Buck/McCarver over Vin Scully? Maybe five people in the whole of North America?

Rays over Sox, seven games. Boston suddenly gets another hated rival in the AL East. This may seem like an odd pick, but I really don't want to see the fucking Red Sox win another World Series. It's bad enough that the Rays vaulted past the stagnant Blue Jays like they were standing still, but I'd rather see Tampa have a shot at the ring than put up with more Massachusetts sporting glory. I'll predict that Pedroia is suspended for the series after rushing the mound against Jason Hammel, who proceeds to headlock and noogie-punch him into submission. The loss of Pedroia is a bigger blow to Boston than losing Hammel is to Tampa, and thus the Rays capitalize. I'm also slightly biased by the fact that Joe Maddon was probably the nicest guy I had a chance to interview two years ago. Just a gregarious, easy-going, all-around good guy.

Philadelphia over Tampa Bay, six games. I like Joe Maddon, but c'mon, even I don't quite think the Rays have enough. The City of Brotherly Love finally gets a pro sports title for the first time in 25 years. Philadelphia sports fans next start moaning about their teams' misfortunes by...oh, let's say the spring. That's a few months of respite at least.

Keep in mind that I'm the same guy who picked the Tigers to win the World Series this year (and once went an impossible 0-for-4 one year in predicting the playoffs in a newspaper column), so whatever you do, don't put money on these predictions. You'd probably be better off putting your cash on an Angels/Brewers Series, given my track record.


The above were predictions, but these award picks are how I would vote if I could cast my lot for baseball's major player awards.

NL MVP: Albert Pujols. If someone like Delgado or Howard wins it based being good for just two months out of the year, that's ridiculous. It is also ridiculous that Pujols has just one MVP award. It's perhaps a sign of how underrated Pujols is that even those us who grew up in the Pujols Era can still look at his career stats and be blown away at just how good this guy is. Here are his 10 closest 'age 27' comparisons on Baseball Reference...Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey Jr., Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Hal Trosky, Vladdy Guerrero, Lou Gehrig, Orlando Cepeda. Yikes. That's a lot of all-time greats on that list. That's seven HOFers, two eventual HOFers, and Trosky, who might have gone Hall if it weren't for injuries.

NL Cy Young: This one is a real head-scratcher. You could make a case for Webb, Lincecum or Johan Santana, but I'm going to have to swallow hard and pick the guy who wasn't even in the NL for the first half of the year, C.C. Sabathia. I would've gone with Lincecum if CC had come in and merely been very good, but instead CC was flat-out unbelievable and single-handedly carried a team into the playoffs. That's hard to ignore.

NL ROY: Geovany Soto, no doubt.

AL MVP: Some years there really shouldn't be an MVP. There's a lot of guys who had good seasons, but I'm not sure there's one that really stands out as a clear favorite. You could still make a pretty good case for Carlos Quentin even though he missed the last few weeks but, in the end, I think Joe Mauer should take it. Am I biased since Mauer was on my fantasy team? Maybe. He had a great year, he's a catcher and without him, the Twins definitely don't go anywhere. Hell, the fact that they ended up losing a one-game playoff in a season where they were supposed to be the dregs of the American League is a testament to Mauer's awesomeness. Justin Morneau, of course, also played a part, but he already has an MVP trophy, so let's spread the wealth. Mauer it is!

AL ROY: In spite of missing time to injury, I think this still has to be Evan Longoria. Hopefully Jesse Carlson gets at least a couple of top-five votes.

AL Cy Young: Roy Halladay. You can recite all of Cliff Lee's numbers at me until you're blue in the face. The fact is that if I could only pick one pitcher from the AL to win a game for me, I'd pick Roy Halladay. Not a doubt in my mind. Halladay's strength-of-opposition has been much harder (multiple starts against New York, Boston, Tampa), and it really rubs me the wrong way that the Tribe tried to arrange Lee's starts so that he'd mostly avoid stronger-hitting clubs in the latter part of the year. Not that Lee should be punished for a coaching decision, but in the end, I'll still take Halladay over him. If the Jays had given Halladay any kind of run support, he would've had at least five more wins. BTW, if Frankie Rodriguez wins this, it'll be one of the five worst selections of any major award ever, arguably even the single worst ever.