Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"We're Gonna Need To Watch That Again..."

Best Lost Episodes Ever ( far):

To commemorate the Season Four finale, Kyle and I thought we'd go with a (highly subjective!) list of the best Lost episodes thus far. What follows is my Top 15, followed by Kyle's Top 15, followed by comments from both of us on the other person's list. (Lists were compiled separately, then discussed together. This has been cross-posted on Kyle's excellent blog, too.)

My list will be first, followed by Kyle's. (My comments are in red, Kyle's in blue.
The whole thing isn't exactly light on spoilers, so if you're planning to catch-up on the show this summer (or at some point), read at your own peril.

My List
15. There's No Place Like Home, Parts II and III: I think it's safe to predict this will be one of the best episodes in the history of the series, right? It's nominally fifteenth now, but sure to shoot up the list after it actually, like, airs. I cannot wait to see the gruesome method of death that's awaiting Keamy. It'll be hard to top the troika of the Hurley van/Sayid's neck-breaking with his legs/Sawyer shooting Tom from last year's final episode, but I have faith in the Lost writers. btw, the guy who plays Keamy looks exactly like Toronto FC goalkeeper Greg Sutton if Sutton really started hitting the roids.
Response: I think we're in complete agreement on this one. On a scale of 1 to 10, my excitement is about a 37 for Thursday night.

14. Greatest Hits: Unlike seemingly all of Lost's fanbase, I actually liked Charlie a lot and never got sick of the character. This episode was therefore a pretty nice farewell, even though Charlie didn't technically die until the next episode. His saving Nadia was a pretty cool surprise--I love the random character connections within the flashbacks. I had to laugh, though, at the ultra-cheesy "the day I met Claire was the best day of my life" #1 entry on his list. For a British rocker, that was pretty emo. And, somewhat hilarious, I guess that means the best day of Charlie's life was the day that Oceanic 815 crashed. Classy. If you think about it, that had to be a pretty shitty three-month period for Dominic Monaghan. First he's written off of Lost, then he and Evangeline Lilly split up like three weeks later. Harsh.
Response: I have this a bit higher, but I feel about the same about the ep (except I never liked Charlie). Here's something weird: Wikipedia still lists Monaghan as dating EL, but Lilly's page claims that they've broken up and that she may or may not be seeing Jeremy Davies. Now, from a character standpoint, this is a clear upgrade, as Faraday is very intriguing. But, in terms of the real world, I dunno...doesn't Davies strike you as the kind of guy who plays extremely weird characters because he is, indeed, extremely weird? More to the point, isn't she too hot for either of them?Right, right...the episode. As far as the Charlie-Claire thing goes. He falls in love with her almost instantly...for seemingly no reason (but presumably due to side-effects from massive withdrawal). And she (sort of) reciprocates why exactly? Because he kidnapped her child? Honestly, I could never (or cared to) follow their "romance."
-----> Jeremy Davies? Seriously? Jesus. Is every other single guy in the Lost cast gay or married? Perhaps Lilly is trying to reverse Kate's bad reputation amongst hardcore Lost fans by dating the geekiest-looking guys she can find.
-----> Let's not forget, Charlie is a rock star. He is genetically conditioned to seek out the hottest woman he can find and start making a move. Pregnancy? Pfft. That's just more of a challenge. And Emilie de Ravin was 'TV pregnant,' a.k.a. still completely gorgeous and slim except with a 15-pound latex gut. One weird thing I just realized about this episode....I was re-reading the episode capsule for Walkabout, and totally forgot about the scene when Charlie is hitting on Shannon by getting a fish for her, and Shannon is actually just using Charlie to prove to Boone that he can 'fend for herself' (a.k.a. manipulate men to work for her)? So in Charlie's world, he had the greatest day of his life by meeting the woman of his dreams, and then two days later he's hitting on another woman. Rock and roll, baby.

13. Exodus: To most Lost fans, the two-part S1 finale was overlong, didn't explain anything, and as unsatisfying as your average episode of Heroes. I, however, thought it was awesome, but that might be because I didn't see it live. I saw the entire first season in one weekend-long block, and I already had the first two episodes of S2 taped and ready to watch afterwards. So when Exodus ended and everyone flipped out because they STILL didn't know what was down the Hatch, I just tossed in my tape of the S2 premiere and picked right up where I left off. Admittedly, I can see how that cliffhanger of Jack and Locke looking down the Hatch would've been pretty frustrating to end on for four months. But at least I still got to share in the frustration of not knowing what the hell the Monster was even after it was 'shown' in the episode.This quibble aside, this was one emotional episode. The raft leaving, the slo-mo montage of everyone getting on Oceanic 815 in the first place, Arzt blowing up...ok, maybe not that last one. Why couldn't Arzt have stuck around and become a regular? That guy was comic gold. I'll bet Lindelof & Cuse feel the same way, which is why they bring him back for a flashbacks every chance that they can get.
Response: interesting that the two of us seem to have flipped the S1 pilot and finale on our lists, with you preferring the former to the latter. While being able to watch the S2 premiere afterward must have been satisfying, I'm still baffled as to why Lindelof & Cuse decided to be so coy with the final reveal. The more I think about it, the final moment letdown of the S1 finale probably played a greater role in the S2 hangover than most of us thought. (Also: you didn't watch Lost when it aired originally? How in the world did I not know this.) (Also: I don't ever want you to compare this show to the lazily cobbled together 44 minutes per week that Heroes has so obviously--and inexplicably--become.)
-----> You knew I didn't watch Lost when it aired. Don't you remember during those poker games at your old house when you'd bring up the show and I'd do everything short of sticking my fingers in my ears and saying LA LA LA LA LA? I watched the entire first season in one three- day explosion of TV over Homecoming Weekend '05. Literally the only break I took was spending Saturday morning at a Gazette alumni event, and then skipped the actual game to go home and watch more Lost. I am social.

12. Confirmed Dead: Like with Exodus, last week's episode or Confirmed Dead, Lost does multi-character flashback episodes very well. In a way, it's better to just have a quick-hit look at one character rather than four or five segments about one character in one episode that just reinforces the same tired points (i.e. most Jack or Kate episodes). Confirmed Dead had the additional challenge of showing us quick flashbacks of not just four characters, but four brand new characters, as well as making them interesting enough to drive the season's main plot of the freighter invasion. Miles had probably the most interesting flashback given the oddity of his ghost-hunting adventure, Faraday was the least-established (but he got the most to do in future episodes), Lapidus got just enough to establish him in his role as helicopter jockey, and Charlotte had the most to do in actual real-time Island action. This was probably for the best given that Charlotte's whole role this season has basically been to stand on the beach, look suspicious and deliver "uh oh" reaction shots whenever Jack, Sun or Juliet directly questions her and Faraday. I can't help but think that if Kristin Bell had taken this role last summer, the part would've been greatly expanded. Then again, then Bell might not have been in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, so I guess everyone wins.
Response: Very good episode, but the weak final reveal (Ben has a man on the boat) kind of tainted it for me.Much as it pains me to say it, wouldn't Kristen Bell be too young for the Charlotte role? Rebecca Mader isn't exactly rocking my world here, but at least she's semi-believable established anthropologist. Now, if they were looking for a sassy detective...
-----> According to IMBD, Kristen Bell was born on July 18, 1980 and Rebecca Mader was born in 1979 (no date). So, I don't think age is really a factor. Bell just seems younger because she's short and played a teen detective for so many years. The final reveal was decent, if incredibly obvious that the mole was going to be Michael.

11. Numbers: Perhaps my favorite element of the first season was how each episode seemed to present a different case for several characters being the focal point of the show's mystery. Who was the most 'important' character on the Island? Was it Locke and his seemingly empathic connection to the Island? Was it Walt and his apparent psychic powers? Was is Claire and her baby that no one but she could raise? The best example of this was Hurley, who went all year being the comic relief, and then suddenly in the fourth-last episode of the season we had the spectre of the six numbers thrown at us. The close-up of the Numbers on the hatch was a pretty good shock ending, too. The episode is this low on the list since it kind of underscored the ridiculousness of Danielle's character ("Hey, there's another woman living on the Island, but instead of pumping her for information, let's just leave her alone except for the random plot-driven moments when we need her!") and, in hindsight, the Numbers didn't really end up amounting to much of anything. Lostpedia has a whole entry about how the numbers actually represent the "Valenzetti Equation," but this has never come up on the show yet. I did love Hurley freaking out over seeing the numbers on his odometer last episode, so perhaps that was just a hint that the writers will get around to explaining those numbers at some point in the next two seasons.
Response: a good episode that just missed making the cut for me. The incredulous look on Leonard's face when he hears that Hurley played the numbers in the lotto remains quite chilling. As for the numbers themselves, I, too, buy in to the Valenzetti Equation theory. (Though I've read in a few different places that Lindelof & Cuse are a little horrified at how much significance viewers have placed in the numbers and that--since the payoff they have planned isn't all that great...and could never match the ridiculous expectations--that's why they've decided to put the Numbers angle on mothballs for virtually the entire season.)
-----> Lindelof: Gee, the fans seem to be taking these numbers pretty seriously.
Cuse: Well, we do put them into the show at every opportunity.
Lindelof: But we put Kate into every episode and her character is useless.
Cuse: True. Hey, do you think Evie Lilly would date us?
Lindelof: If Davies can do it....

10. One Of Us: This is the ep that really elevated Juliet from being just a complication for Jack-Kate-Sawyer into an interesting character in her own right. Elizabeth Mitchell has a great poker face. Two major pieces of info from this episode that have somewhat been forgotten about --- one, the Others put some kind of an implant into Claire that caused her sickness. Did they similarly implant their other captives, i.e. Jack, Michael, Sawyer, Kate, etc.? Two, Juliet somehow knows about Sawyer killing that guy in Australia before he got on the plane. So clearly either the Others had access to more than just basic information about the crash survivors, or else Sawyer has been publicly identified as the killer by the Aussie police and he'll have to face a murder charge if he ever gets off of the Island.
Response: Agreed. I went back and re-read the episode summary for this one and realized I'd completely forgotten about the whole implant angle. Clearly, this has to come up again (possibly on Thursday night, with a sharp turn in popular approval leading Juliet to stay--not by choice--on the island?)

-----> Juliet could be off the Island ala Michael, though I guess she could go back to her old life and just say that the job at Mittelos didn't pan out. Or she could still be stuck on the Island in the future. Or she could be killed off Thursday night. Or she spends her time doing shots of whiskey while yelling slurs at pictures of Katherine Heigl. Who knows?

9. Deus Ex Machina: The episode in nine words: Locke's dad is the worst person to ever live. I love how Kevin Tighe and Swoosie Kurtz are both like, five years older than Terry O'Quinn in real life. They must've taken parenting tips from Dr. Henry Jones. Also an important episode because it introduced the drug smuggler's plane, delivered Boone's fatal injury, and also was the first step in establishing Locke as dangerously obsessed, not just the wise island sage.
Response: agreed. Great episode. Though I'll just quickly interject that I'm somewhat dismayed by how much Locke has changed since S1. I'm guessing there's redemption in sight for him, but every time Locke is on screen, my first thought is now "hey, isn't that the guy that killed Naomi with zero repercussions?" That doesn't sit right with me. (And don't even get me started on the sub...)
-----> That was followed up by Jack trying to shoot Locke in the head, except the gun jammed. And nobody ever mentioned it again. And Rose even said, "I'm not going with Locke, he's crazy." AND THEN SHE WENT WITH JACK! I choose to interpret that scene as Rose really just going whenever Sayid went.

8. Cabin Fever: ...and this was the episode that restored some of Locke's mysticism after basically sidelining him as a dangerous obsessive for most of the season. The flashbacks of Locke's past were just jaw-dropping...I actually yelped when Richard Alpert showed up in the window of the nursery. And then to have Matthew "Evil Dave Chappelle" Abaddon show up as Locke's orderly, man alive, this show is creepy. And then Claire showed up all calm and shit in Jacob's cabin! And Keamy was beating the hell out of Michael, but Michael just wouldn't die! Man alive!(Yes, I realize this degenerating into fanboyish glee isn't very smooth, but hey, the episode happened just two weeks ago. I need time to decompress.)
Response: I think this is in a dead heat with my selection of "The Other 48 Days" as "the episode we completely disagree upon." I dug the Locke flashbacks (loved the visit from Alpert and can't wait for his "test" to eventually be deconstructed/explained--that it allegedly mirrors the test that potential Dalai Lamas are given is wicked cool. And the bit with the guidance counsellor is a nice callback to "Walkabout"), his dream (Godspeed was suitably creepy), and the growing fan theory that since Locke and Ben's lives mirror each so closely, maybe one is supposed to (or, in another timeline, already has) replaced the other. But, once again, the trip to Jacob's Cabin was a massive letdown. I'll go so far as to say that, at the moment, I hate the cabin angle, as it never seems to deliver the goods. We keep thinking we're going to see him and then we get...Jack's dad? Weak. (Though slightly better than the previous installment, where he was seemingly invisible.) This episode is also a perfect example of your Danielle theory (key character that is inexplicably never mined for information). Locke gets to ask one question about the island (that we saw--at least) and he fucking blows it on the intentions of the smoke monster? I think I actually screamed at the TV.

Evil Dave Chappelle...good Lord, that's funny. (Also: start watching The Wire already, as Lance Reddick (Abaddon) is all kinds of awesome there.
-----> I don't think we're going to actually see Jacob before a season finale (so, maybe...Thursday?). You were let down by the two cabin visits? I loved them. The first one was just a mindfuck of epic proportions. The second brought "Jack's dad" into the picture as a confirmed ally of Jacob, and plus had the double surprise of happy-to-be-there Claire. My friend Mario mentioned the fact that Doug Hutchinson (the guy who plays Horace) plays a loathsome creep in pretty much every other role he's ever had, so I'm thinking that Horace will end up meaning a lot more in the future.

7. Through the Looking Glass: Probably a bit lower ranked than expected, given that I spent the entire episode alternately pumping my fist and grinning like a goofball. But in future viewings, the flash-forward revelation will lose all of its bite. Frankly, if you're a champ at anagrams and were able to decode the Hoffs-Drawlar funeral home hint, the big twist ending would've been given away 20 minutes into the episode. But still, this episode was pretty awesome. Charlie's final fate, Jack beating the hell out of Ben, the surprise Walt cameo, and the entire sequence with Hurley using the Dharma van against the Others.
Fun fact: I was actually at work on the night that this episode aired, and rather than wait a day and try to download it, I got the extra west coast channels on my Rogers package just so I could see it when I got home. So, essentially, I paid an extra $2.99 per month for three months just to see this episode 'live.' Well worth it.
Response: good old, time shifting. Is there anything it can't do? Agreed re: Hoffs-Drawlar (though I didn't pick up on it...and I'm guessing you didn't either.) I see what you're saying about how it may not be as rewatchable as some other top episodes (though, even if you ignore the flash-forwards, the island stuff alone makes it worthy of inclusion), but I also think it's important to look at these episodes in terms of being major events or moments. For instance, no subsequent viewing of The Usual Suspects can ever be as satisfying as the first go-round, but I still firmly believe it's one of the ten best movies of the decade (subsequent post on that topic coming...sometime).
-----> Oh man, get ready for my harsh rebuttal about that upcoming post. Ten best of the decade?? Seriously?

6. The Man Behind The Curtain: Finally, the Ben show! Lindelof/Cuse knew they had a lot of expectations to pay off with the first Ben-centic episode, and what better time than this to bust out Jacob. Plus, the weirdly unaging Richard Alpert. My theory is he's a Highlander. Next season, Christopher Lambert and Adrian Paul join the cast. The show will then plummet downhill in quality.
Response: an unequivocally great episode. My failure to include it is probably inexcusable (though, again, the Jacob scene sucked).

5. Raised by Another: This episode combined the two aspects I enjoyed most about the first season of Lost. First, the major subplot was Hurley putting together a census of the survivors, which is one of those logical post-crash activities that someone might do if they were actually in a plane crash with a bunch of people. As much as I enjoy all of the bizarre mysteries, I think I'd equally enjoy a show that actually was about people stranded on a remote island. Like, the middle hour of Cast Away. Anyway, the other element I liked was, as I mentioned in the Numbers entry, every episode and its subsequent flashbacks brought a new character into the who's-most-important argument, and in this case, it was Claire and her baby that (according to the puffy-faced psychic who looked like Odo on DS9 even without makeup) couldn't be "raised by another." The episode also had one of the best cliffhangers in Lost history, of Charlie and Claire nervously facing down a newly-revealed-as-evil Ethan. Thomas Mapother is a legitimately scary-looking dude.
It's fun to look back on some of these old episodes and remember some of the dropped or forgotten plotlines. Like, remember when that Scott/Steve guy was killed after Ethan threatened to kill one survivor per day unless Claire was returned to him? Scott/Steve was found with, and I quote, every bone in his body broken. Given that what we later learned about the Others (they're just normal people, not supermen), this stands kind of incongruous four years later. Maybe Scott/Steve was actually a Monster victim, and Ethan just took it as a happy coincidence. And whatever happened to the surviving member of Scott/Steve? If they ever did another Nikki-and-Paulo-esque flashback episode about the background characters, I nominate him. Maybe he could usurp the dead guy's life.
Response: wow...this one didn't register with me at all, mostly because I think Claire is such a big, dull dud...and because (thus far) they've blown the whole "Aaron has to be raised by Claire or he'll end up the devil incarnate." I may have to reserve judgment until the show's run is complete. [Obligatory mention that Mapother is Tom Cruise's cousin.] Ethan was scary as hell. Shame he wasn't on the show longer. To be honest, I barely even remember this Scott/Steve thing. That's...peculiar.
-----> This episode was, in a way, Claire's last hurrah. [Note from Kyle: this was 71 episodes ago.] Before her kidnapping, she was the only seemingly happy character on the show. While the logic of a pregnant woman taking a c'est la vie attitude to being stranded on a deserted island is faulty, it was kind of nice having one character that wasn't burdened down by issues on the show. After her kidnapping and subsequent amnesia, however, Claire got a lot more dour and her importance to the show was heavily minimized. And I wouldn't pass judgement on the 'Aaron may be evil' storyline yet. There has to be a reason why Christian and Claire get such priority seating in the cabin. Perhaps Aaron grows up to be Jacob.

4. Live Together, Die Alone: On the face of it, it was a pretty bold decision by the Lost producers to devote an entire two-hour season finale to a minor, not-even-a-cast-member character. Fortunately, Henry Ian Cusick is awesome and Desmond immediately became one of the most popular characters on the show. This episode also got him his regular job, as after Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje told the producers he wanted to leave the show, the decision was made to add Desmond to the show and (if you believe internet scuttlebutt) take over the "flashes through time" storyline that was originally planned for Mr. Eko. Anyway, SO many great little moments in this one. The introduction of the Desmond/Penny storyline. The first appearance of the very important Charles Widmore. Desmond buys his boat from (of all people) Libby. The Swan station blows up. The surprise re-appearance of Clancy Brown as Kelvin, Desmond's previous hatch partner. The tube in the middle of the jungle that had spewed out countless notations from the Pearl Station. The mysterious station in the Arctic that was shown at the end of the episode contacting Penny (NB, the first time on Lost that we actually saw a real-time look off of the Island). And, of course, the foot statue. Surely that has to be explained one of these seasons, right?
Response: [nodding] Of all the mysteries on Lost (and Lostpedia lists no fewer than twenty-nine of them), I'm most curious about the four-toed statue. (In case you were wondering: I've got Adam/Eve and Kate's horse tied for last.) I kind of dig the notion (even though I think it's probably too difficult to communicate on-screen) that it's from a different reality where they managed to alter the equation...but that alteration fundamentally (or, possibly, just slightly) changed what humans looked like--hence four toes instead of five. Or it's a production error. (Kidding.)
-----> Adam and Eve are almost certainly two current characters, it's just a matter of guessing who they will end up being. I think the only way I'd be surprised is if Adam & Eve turned out to be the actual Adam & Eve, which would probably take the show in a pretty weird direction. I think the mystery I'm least curious about is (going by the Lostpedia list) Hurley's imaginary friend. Seems pretty clear it was an imaginary friend. Plus, I'm secretly jealous of Evan Handler and want to usurp his life.

3. Walkabout: I think most people would have this episode in their top three, if not #1 overall. It was the episode that first established that Lost was going to be a pretty unique show. Sure, the previous few episodes had already revealed the existence of the Monster, but when you throw in a twist like the Island healing a crippled man, that takes things to a new level. It also, arguably, made Locke the face of the show in S1 given that he became the symbol of the unusual Island. Fun fact: the working title for this episode was "Lord of the Files," which, frankly, would've dropped its grade a notch or two.
Response: Awesome episode (#4 of my list), horrible working title. I'm actually kind of dismayed they even considered it.
----> Hey, this is the same crew that green-lighted "All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues." What the hell does that even mean?
Follow up: have you noticed that people never say "green lit"--even though it's still grammatically correct and wayyy easier? What's up with that?

2. Pilot: You could make a strong case for Lost having the best pilot episode in TV history. A pilot is supposed to make you want to add the show to your regular schedule, right? By that logic, I can't see how anyone could've watched the first episode of Lost and then not tuned in the next week. You had the great drama of the rescue, the wide array of characters, survival elements, and the hints of something being not quite right about the Island, like the polar bear or the Monster. Also, this might be the only pilot in TV history where the title of 'Pilot' actually is meaningful, since the pilot eats it at the end of the first hour.
Response: see, but, nothing really happens in the pilot. We didn't know anything (or, really, learn anything) about the characters. Consequently, I find it difficult to rank an episode that's basically entirely set-up this highly.
As for the best pilot ever, I find it hard to disagree, though The West Wing and ER probably deserve to be in the conversation.

-----> This could be a whole separate list on its own. Of recent years, Pushing Daisies and Studio 60 had pretty wonderful pilots. Frasier's first episode was very good. I remember the Sopranos' first episode as being excellent.

1. The Constant: In case you couldn't tell from the two Desmond episodes in my top four, I'm a sucker for the Desmond/Penny story. While this episode wasn't as whole-cast-centric as much of my other favorite episodes are (it's basically all Desmond, Sayid and Faraday), this was as good an episode as any show has ever done. The sometimes-hackneyed device of time travel was dealt with in an original way that made it seem semi-believable, and in terms of the show's mythology, it answered some major questions about what kind of time distortion was taking place on (or, as we learned, around) the Island. This episode also confirmed that my ideal Lost spinoff would be Sayid and Desmond, traveling the world solving crimes with Penny as their financier and maybe Hurley as the comic relief. I can't say enough about what a good addition Desmond was to the show.
Response: my #2, but could easily have been #1. Just a wonderful hour of television. Quick question: if, as you say, Eko was supposed to be the central character in "Flashes Before Your Eyes," does this mean that he would've been "The Constant," too? It certainly seems like the two go hand in hand, but the thought of this episode not being a Desmond-Penny showcase makes me feel a little ill. Did arguably the best episode of Lost almost never happen?
Lovvvve the spinoff idea, though I'm putting in a request that Lapidus be involved, since Jeff Fahey is terrific. Along similar lines, I've this impending sense of dread that Sayid and Desmond--whose budding friendship was one of the unexpected treats of S4--will be turned against each other in S5 and S6, since, if Ben wants to kill Penny, who better to send than his #1 assassin (Sayid)? (One last thing: have you heard rumblings that Sayid actually did kill Penny in "The Economist," but she was a slightly different looking Penny from an altered timeline? I don't buy it, but it totally creeps me out/makes me sad.

-----> I'm not sure I buy the 'altered timeline' thing until we actually get evidence of it. I think that might be a twist that would just make the show a bit too confusing, even for hardcores like us. A future Sayid-centric episode where he's forced to choose between his duty to Ben and his friendship with Desmond sounds like something that would end up on our 2010 version of Lost's Best Episodes. At this point, one would think Sayid's loyalty to Desmond would easily win out, but this also raises the specter that Penny did something/does something horrible to enrage Sayid.
-----> The "Eko has the flashes" storyline is perhaps my favourite Lost plot rumour. I have no idea how it would've worked. Would Yemi have been his constant? Or maybe even a more random choice like Claire's psychic? Chalk it up to what may have been, along with Michael Keaton-as-Jack and the original conception of the Kate character as (essentially) a combination of Juliet and Rose.

Follow up: definitely Yemi. My top choice would probably be "Jack was supposed to die in the pilot" (which, I guess, is the same as the Michael Keaton thing, since it was supposed to be a one-off). Didn't even know about the Kate thing--I think it's safe to say it would've been better (basically by default) that way.

Honourable mentions (there are four of them since, y'know, four is also one of the Numbers): The Economist, Flashes Before Your Eyes, Special, The 23rd Psalm.
Response: on my list; on my list; had to look it up because I didn't remember it (verdict: meh...never been a huge Walt fan--and, yes, that can properly be considered a play on words); honourable mention on my list. Very surprised you don't have "The Brig" there, too.

-----> I really liked the Brig. If we had done a top 23, it would've made the cut. The only thing that dropped it for me a tad was that Cooper descended a bit into cartoonish supervillany and that it probably would've worked better as a Sawyer flashback episode.

Kyle's List
(since I'm, apparently, physically incapable of doing a list without having a tie somewhere...)
"There's No Place Like Home" (4.12 - 4.14): Given that the finale is a three-parter spread over two weeks, I'd anticipated this being all wind-up and no pitch. Instead, we were treated to an impressive hour that, in true Lost fashion, posed as many questions as it answered. I'm bordering on outright giddy for next week's finale...and am willing to bet that parts two and three will vault "There's No Place Like Home" comfortably into the top five. For the moment, Jack's reaction to finding out about Claire is, alone, enough to secure a place on this list.
-----> Great minds think alike. After watching this show for four seasons, I'm still torn on whether or not Fox is a good actor. I mean, he's obviously 'good,' but I can't decide if he is capable of greatness or if he's held back by the character of Jack.
Follow up: I'd say Fox is an above-average actor (with the occasional flash of greatness--see his reaction upon meeting Claire's mom last week and everything in his original flash-forward), but is hampered somewhat by his character. You can only do so much with the flawed/vaguely dickish hero angle (...and 100,000,000 Hamlet fans shudder for no discernible reason).

-----> Great, now I've spent the last five minutes trying to come up with more Lost/Hamlet character comparisons. After Nikki and Paulo as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, I'm stuck.

T15. "The Shape of Things to Come" (4.9): had the final scene between Ben (Michael Emerson) and Charles Widmore (Alan Dale) been just a little bit better (or merely average) instead of almost cringe-worthy (see, for instance, the usually-reliable Dale's atrocious delivery of "well, then, I guess the race is on for both of us"--though, in fairness, there isn't a lot you can do with something that schlocky) this would be much higher, because there's a lot to love in this episode, including Ben being a total bad-ass and possibly the show's best written (and shot) death scene. Emerson brings it every single time.
-----> I just wish the big Ben/Widmore confrontation had been built up a little more. It was only a few episodes earlier we learned that Widmore was Ben's enemy, and even then, we couldn't believe it since 99% of everything Ben says is horseshit. I half-expected Ben to shake Widmore's hand when he walked into his room, or call him 'Boss' or something.
Follow up: I thought the same thing about Ben/Widmore working together. That would've been an interesting twist, though this war by proxy thing has loads of potential. By the way, have you read the description of the H.G. Wells' book that the episode title is borrowed from? It sounds absolutely fucking insane. This leads to include that Wells had to be an opium (or ether) addict and that his estate has managed to keep it under wraps for sixty years....

14. "Expose" (3.14): I'm fairly certain I'm in the minority here, but I thought this episode was incredibly clever. For the uninitiated, Nikki (played by Kiele Sanchez) and Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro) joined the show for S3 as characters that were on Oceanic 815, but hadn't been off-camera thus far. Fans, concerned that not enough info was being released about existing characters let alone new ones, lashed out. In response, showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof cancelled plans for a multi-episode arc and killed off both characters in a one-off episode. I like it for the meta-references (Nikki, upon being asked to rejoin the cast of the fictional in-show program referenced in the episode, responds "thanks, but I'm only a guest-star, and we all know what happens to guest-stars"; a bewildered Sawyer shouting "who the hell is Nikki?" mirroring much of the fan discussion), how it played with time , the little touches (according to Lostpedia, aside from Nikki's dying gasp, the two characters only speak in flashbacks), and the nifty twist (which I won't spoil for those that--inexplicably--have yet to watch the show). Did it advance the story? Not in the slightest...but it was lots of fun...and you can't ask for much more than that.
-----> Heh, I was wondering if you'd include this. In a way it's a shame that Lost fans have become so focused on 'answers' and 'the Story' since with just a limited number of episodes left, it means we probably won't get to see little sideline amusements like Expose anymore. If more of the background characters had been elevated to Paulo/Nikki/Rose/Bernard levels, this show could run for three more seasons. Did you ever read the original concept for 'Expose' had Lindelof/Cuse not decided to kill the characters off? It was going to be Nikki's flashback episode, except all of his flashbacks would've been from her TV show. So, in the last scene, we would've found out that everything we learned about her in the previous hour wasn't true. Fun fact: for about a week before this episode aired, Lostpedia listed it as 'Expos' in the upcoming listings. I was baffled --- were Delino DeShields and Tim Wallach going to show up in the Others?
Also, Sawyer's "who the hell is Nikki?" line was, while funny, ridiculous. SAWYER wouldn't make mental note of the hot Latina in jean shorts? Shyeah.

Follow up: For as much as some people hated "Expose," they would've despised the original concept even more. If you're going to crib from Dallas, please God don't let it be from the dream season. I read about the "Expos" thing, too. Apparently the ABC press release referred to it as such. Bizarre.
Good point re: Sawyer. Possible explanation: he slept with her off-camera and never bothered to get her name.

-----> That's a good point. Sawyer could've carried the whole conversation just by calling her "Shorts," "Jean Genie," "Rosalita," etc.

13. "The Economist" (4.3): After this episode aired someone--though I can't for the life of me remember where...possibly a commenter on Sepinwall's blog--wrote "remind me again why Sayid isn't the leader?" and I haven't been able to shake that thought since. Because, let's be honest, he's awesome and (very much unlike Jack, the actual leader) seemingly always right. "The Economist" rams this point home, with Sayid at his Bondian best. Very entertaining...and more than a little heartbreaking.
----->This was a tough cut from my list. The reason that Sayid isn't the leader because, storyline-wise, you can't have such a logical and level-headed character as the central figure of a show with so much weird stuff happening. I'm just highly glad that Naveen Andrews finally became a big part of Lost again after two seasons. If Michael Emerson wasn't a stone-cold lock to win the Supporting Actor Emmy, I'd give it to Andrews.
Follow up: just say it, Mark. It's because he's Iraqi, isn't it? Racist.
-----> Cuse: Boy, I sure am racist.
Lindelof: Me too.
Cuse: Want to fill our show with various minority characters and then gradually kill them off or marginalize them?
Lindelof: Sounds good. But won't people be onto our racism if we do that?
Cuse: Not if the first two we kill are the whitebread half-siblings. It's the perfect cover.
Lindelof: You've done it again, Carlton.
Cuse: You're pretty good yourselves, Damon.

Director's note: these lines should be read in the voices of the Duke brothers from Trading Places.

12. "Pilot, Parts 1 and 2" (1.1 and 1.2): Since this episode--the brilliant first five, post-crash minutes aside--wasn't terribly thrilling or especially (save for Jack memorably explaining the count to five thing to Kate) well acted (witness Charlie, going for portentous but falling on the wrong side of "lamely," ending the first episode by asking "guys...where are we?"), I can't shake the feeling that this is kind of an honorary inclusion. That said, these two episodes laid the groundwork for what followed, so it deserves to be here.
----->Twelfth? Wow, really? I don't see how it could possibly be anywhere lower than top-five. Now, that being said, it's sort of funny how the pilot bears little resemblance to the show as it is now. At this point, major plot points/characters like Ben, Juliet, Jacob, Widmore, Desmond, Penny, the Freighter crew, etc. were all just gleams in Lindelof/Cuse's eye.
Follow up: back in March, the Washington Post did a Top 64 "Lost Madness" bracket, in an effort to determine who was the fan favorite and many lamented that two characters that weren't even in the first season--Ben and Desmond--made it to the final four (Desmond ultimately won, with Sayid and Charlie also making the final four). Now, it turns out this is a little misleading, since, the way the brackets were structured, only one 815 survivor could make it (and one Other had to), but, even if the brackets hadn't been setup that way, I find it difficult to believe the final outcome would've been much different. (One last thing: what's more surprising: Charlie going to the final four, or Kate lasting to the Sweet 16? Personally, I'd argue that having Jacob in the Elite 8 is the biggest reach of all.)
-----> The DarkUFO Lost [Note from Kyle: that site freaks me out...and I rarely sleep well after reading from it] blog did a 'favourite character' poll in the summer, and Desmond defeated Locke in the final (Sawyer and Jack were in the final four). That poll was set up a bit differently, though, as the 100 or so starting characters were paired off in random matchups throughout the tournament. So, in the first round, you could've conceivably had Sayid face Jack right off the bat. In conclusion, Desmond is awesome. Also in conclusion, it says something about the show's quality that they're able to integrate new characters so well into the ongoing story. Put it this way --- if they did a favourite West Wing character bracket, I doubt the final two would come down to Arnie Vinick vs. Kate Harper.

Follow up: Kate Harper! [bashes own head off keyboard] Vinick, I must say, I didn't mind all that much. Admittedly, there wasn't much depth to Vinick's character--though he looks like Othello (note: this would ordinarily be a Hamlet reference) in comparison to Brolin's Ritchie. This probably has a lot to do with Alan Alda being awesome.

11. "Deus Ex Machina" (1.19): Initially, I had "Three Minutes" (2.22) slotted in here, but the more I think about, the more strongly I feel about "Deus Ex" being list-worthy--mostly because, otherwise, my list would be completely devoid of references to Locke's dad being a complete asshole. The flashback contain therein is, simply put, the meanest thing ever--indeed nearly mesmerizing in its cruelty. But what makes the episode for me is the final scene, with Locke banging on the mysterious hatch door that simply won't open (something I've always maintained is nod to Krajicek being locked inside that creepy military silo--and banging helplessly on an inner wall--in an early season X-Files ep), seemingly defeated, begging the island for an explanation, and absolutely ready to give up when, all of a sudden, a bright light turns on inside the hatch and the episode smash-cuts to black. It's a fabulous scene in its own right, but the payoff, when it comes (see #3 below) makes it that much better.
-----> So, what happened to Three Minutes? It doesn't make the #11 spot, so it drops off the list entirely? Wouldn't it have just been #12?
Follow up: good point. Explanation: the more I thought about, the less I thought it needed to be included. Ultimately, it got bumped entirely.

10. "Greatest Hits" (3.21): I'll be honest, I was never a fan of Charlie (and the fact that he was in love with Claire--probably my least favorite character on the show--usually meant that his episodes were exercises in frustrations for me)...but this one got to me. Sweet without being saccharine, this one--which flashed on the five greatest events in Charlie's life (hence the title)--was very well done.
-----> Agreed.

9. "Flashes Before Your Eyes" (3.8): The first of three Desmond-centric (pitch-perfectly played by Henry Ian Cusick) episodes to make my list. At first glance, this may seem excessive--given that, by my count, twenty-nine characters (over 81 episodes) have had flashbacks--but he's my favorite character (and, as mentioned, Cusick flat-out rocks), so screw it. Here, we have Desmond coming "unstuck" in time and flashing back (or, if the producers are to believed, actually travelling through time) to London circa 1996, with some great stuff between Desmond and Penny (the love of his life, as played by Sonya Walger), and Desmond and (the absolutely ruthless) Charles Widmore (Penny's dad). I'm not quite sure if everything makes sense (see especially: everything to do with the Ms. Hawking mindfuck), but, for me, Desmond + time travel = awesome episode.
-----> Great episode, but it missed my list just because I think LTDA and Constant were stronger, which made this one pale a bit in comparison. I can't help but wonder what the Eko version of 'Flashes Before Your Eyes' would've been like if AAA had stayed on the show and thus gotten this storyline.
Follow Up: (My thoughts on this almost being Eko's story can be found in my response to your list.) your logic, Rattle & Hum should be omitted from the best albums of the 80s because U2 also released War and The Joshua Tree?

8. "Man of Science, Man of Faith" (2.1): By virtue of the first scene alone--a day in the life an unknown man in some sort of bizarre dwelling (only later do we find out it's Desmond and he's in the hatch)--this is worthy of inclusion. The flashback--Jack becoming the "hero doc" and the attendant consequences of such impossibly high expectations--is pretty cool too. Be honest, you can't think of "Make Your Own Music" without thinking of this now.
-----> You could put together a pretty strong Lost-related mix CD --- Make Your Own Kind of Music, whatever that Mama Cass song was that was playing when Michael tried to crash his car, Buddy Holly's Everyday (Locke's mother is dancing to it at the start of Cabin Fever), Building a Mystery, Downtown, Redemption Song, Wonderwall, You All Everybody, Good Vibrations, Shambala, and the Glenn Miller band song that Hurley and Sayid found on the radio. Anyway, this episode was also notable since it marked the last time that Jack had an interesting flashback.
Follow up: ...and maybe Damien Rice's "Delicate" (a favorite of mine, truth be told), which plays on Hurley's discman (I don't believe it was an .mp3 player) as a S1 episode winds down, only to have it conk out when he runs out of batteries, which I've always interpreted as C&L saying "fuck you...this song is totally overused in montages now."
-----> Ooh, good call, that was a funny scene.

7. "Exodus, Parts 1 and 2" (1.23 and 1.24):
Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first: it's the only season finale (of three so far) that fizzled at the very end (closing with a descending shot down the newly-discovered hatch simply didn't do it for me) and the show got a little too cute with the numbers popping up everywhere (I think the last straw was Hurley passing a girls volleyball team, with the jerseys adorned with 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42, which prompted me to blurt out "OK, dial it down a bit, Lost"). But everything else was pretty tremendous. This two-part ep was the first indication that the show could flash on more than one character without watering down the suspense.
----->Agreed, though you apparently liked it a bit more than I did. How crazy is it that this great episode is, to date, clearly the least impressive of Lost's season finales? This just gets me even more stoked for Thursday.
Follow up: I know. Arguably only Dallas (seasons 1 through, say, 8), The Wire (all five), and The West Wing (everything except for S3) can rival Lost in terms of season finale conversion rates.

6. "One of Us" (3.16): wow. Otherwise known as "the episode where Elizabeth Mitchell [Juliet] acts circles around the rest of the cast." This is the best the show has ever been at portraying how an outsider might be perceived by the Lostaways (umm...not favorably) and, in turn, how the outsider might view them. Again, I can't really say enough about EM's performance here--it's astoundingly good.
-----> And yet, Mitchell didn't get an Emmy nomination. Unbelievable.
Follow up: I know. Actual winner? Katherine Heigl....which is out and out disgraceful.

5. "The Other 48 Days" (2.7): Terribly underrated. The scene with Ana Lucia and Goodwin on the hill talking/analyzing/trying to kill each other is easily one of the show's five best moments (and, interestingly, is actually enhanced by revelations in "One of Us" and "The Other Woman"). Also: seeing the crash from another perspective was phenomenal.
-----> Boy, this one was not on my radar at all. I felt too much was crammed into this episode -- it could've easily been two hours long and been sort of a Pilot 2.0. And, casting Brent Carver as Goodwin was pretty much a dead giveaway that the character was going to be a villain of some sort. Can't help but feel Lindelof/Cuse dropped the ball on the tail section characters, presuming of course that their hands weren't tied by outside forces (coughcoughDUIscoughcough).

Follow up: Interesting! I thought you'd be high on this one. No love for the Ana Lucia-Goodwin showdown? Or Bernard finding out that Rose is alive? Or the actual crash scene? I quite liked this.

4. "Walkabout" (1.4): ...if you'd told me after I watched "Walkabout" that there would be three episodes stronger than it in three years time, I'd of said "goddamn, Lost must've ended up being one outstanding show." And I would've been right. Terry O'Quinn (who was justly nominated for an Emmy for his performance here but somehow didn't win) is terrific here.
----->Another great fact gleaned from Lostpedia: though O'Quinn (finally) won an Emmy last year, he was only in 13 of Lost's 22 episodes. This was the second-lowest appearance total of anyone in the cast in S3 (Emilie de Ravin had 12 episodes, and Yunjin Kim also had 13) who didn't get killed off earlier in the year. Definitely a feast or famine year for Locke fans. I also got a kick out of the scene later in the season when Boone asks Locke what he does, Locke replies "Regional manager of a box factory," and Boone doesn't believe him. Was Locke the Creed of his office? Or maybe the Dwight?
Follow up: "What is wrong with this woman? She's asking about stuff that's nobody's business. "What do I do?" Really, what do I do here? I should've written it down. "Qua" something, uh... qua... quar... quibo, qual...quir-quabity. Quabity assuance! No. No, no, no, no, but I'm getting close."

3. "Live Together, Die Alone" (2.23): Let's be honest, Season 2 was not terribly strong, and it took this kick-ass season finale to restore my faith in the show. Desmond--up to this point a (at best) secondary and ill-defined character--gets the flashback treatment for the first time (which, you have to think, posed somewhat of risk that had come under critical and commerical fire in its second season)...and it's an absolute gem. It was also the first time that I really believed that the producers were capable of seeing the big picture and not just (as my dad never tires of saying) making it up as they went along. I love the mythology it enriches here (Desmond's arrival, hatch orientation, the explanation behind inputting the numbers), the ends it tied up (why the crash happened--I think; the invisible map from "Lockdown;" the light coming from the hatch in "Deus Ex Machina," etc.), and the mysteries it introduced (the polar research station, the four-toed statue, could the Others actually be the good guys?). Great stuff all around that had me begging for, of course, the show went off the air for five months, then totally bricked the first six episodes of S3 (the unfortunate Jack-Kate-Sawyer in captivity saga/mini-season). So it goes.
----->Agreed. I had this one at #4. My favourite little moment from this one was, during the final scene in the Arctic station, there was a Muzak recording of 'Make Your Own Kind Of Music' playing in the background. Awesome.
Follow up: totally missed that music cue. Very cool.

2. "The Constant" (4.5): My sense is that Mark and I will probably have 10+ episodes in common...and I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be his #1 pick, since he is--like me--totally in the tank for Henry Ian Cusick's work as Desmond. After what was arguably the season's worst episode ("Eggtown"--which was totally boring save for one decent reveal at the end) featuring yet-another segment in the agonizing Jack-Kate love saga (which, I'm sorry, doesn't work and, more to the point, will never work) Cuse/Lindelof and company delivered a fantastically compelling episode that highlighted why Penny and Desmond is (are?) Lost's true love story. And while I think that the show skirted all (or most) time paradox issues in a way that was probably just a tad too pat, this was beautiful, beautiful stuff from start to finish. If you didn't tear up (or out and out sob) while Cusick and Sonya Walger bawled and, generally, acted the shit out of that climactic Christmas Eve phone conversation, well, you probably don't have a soul.
-----> Agreed. I'm interested to learn more about this 'time barrier' that surrounds the island. I think that was one of the theories surrounding the Oceanic Six, that they were the ones far enough away from the Hatch explosion to get through it without any Desmond-esque side effects, so that's why they were the ones who could leave. (Jack/Kate/Hurley were all at the Others' dock. Sayid and Sun were off on the boat sailing to the decoy door. Aaron had been treated by some of that vaccine that Desmond injected into himself, plus whatever in utero treatments Ethan did to him when Claire was kidnapped.)
Follow up: I think you may be right on the money here. Can't wait to see how this plays out....

1. "Through the Looking Glass" (3.22): The proverbial game-changer, that totally revitalized the show itself. The only episode in the show's history that, as soon as it ended, made me want to go back and watch all previous episodes in a row. There are stupid twists (coughHarlanCobencough), decent twists, and then there are Lost-style punch-to-the-solar- plexus-twists. (Guess which category this one falls under?) Nearly one year later, I still get chills thinking about it. Right up there with "Two Cathedrals" in terms of near-perfectly crafted television.
-----> Like I said, watching the episode in the future will lessen its impact since we'll already know we're watching flash-forwards. As an actual stand-alone episode, however, it was indeed awesome.
Follow up: damn right.

Honourable mention: "The Brig," "The Long Con," "The 23rd Psalm," "The Numbers," "Three Minutes."
-----> Numbers made my list, Brig and 23rd Psalm were tough cuts. Three Minutes and Long Con were good, but nothing too special, in my opinion. Long Con was particularly undone by the fact that it set Sawyer up as a force to be reckoned with, only to piss it away and make him into comic relief for the rest of the season. Plus, the running subplot of Sawyer's stash was by far the dumbest thing about S1, and the season why Sawyer was originally my least favorite character. There is literally no good reason why the rest of the 815ers would've allowed Sawyer to keep the stuff from the plane for as long as he did.
Follow up: ...and, the more I think about, the more I realize that the con itself in "The Long Con" wasn't all that great. Oh, well. Agreed re: the other Sawyer stuff. It also seemed totally unrealistic that he was able to protect the stash at all times, despite spending 90% of his waking time reading children's books.
The worst (by far): "Stranger in a Strange Land"
-----> Agreed. Though I'd also nominate 'Whatever The Case May Be,' which ended up being a truly pointless waste of an hour. It's also a good thing that the producers have generally stopped giving their episodes cutesy names like WTCMB, Everyone Hates Hugo, All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues, What Kate Did, etc.
Follow up: I agree completely. ATBCHDI is easily the worst title of the show's run.

Final Thoughts:
By my count, if we assign 15 points for our top pick, 14 for #2, down to 1 point for #15, our combined Top Five looks like this:
5. "Pilot" (18 points)
4. "Through the Looking Glass" (24 points)
T2. "Live Together, Die Alone" (25 points)
T2. "Walkabout" (25 points)
1. "The Constant" (29 points)

"One of Us" would've been sixth (16 points), then "Deus Ex Machina" and "Exodus" tied for seventh (12 points).
As always, a real pleasure, Mark. You are a gentleman and a scholar. I look forward to our next collaboration (which is not a euphemism for anything).
A fine list, Mr, Kyle! I look forward to our top 16 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip episode countdown! The pilot will be #1 and...uh....

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Day at the Ballpark (plus, the Jimmy Key tribute)

So I'm at the Jays game today for my buddy Jeff's birthday, and the Jays load the bases in the first inning with Brad "Why am I on a major league roster?" Wilkerson at the plate. Jeff thinks he's due for a grand slam. I start to loudly deride Wilkerson's baseball abilities and maybe even his worth as a human being, capping my rant off with "If Wilkerson hits a grand slam, I'll buy us all a beer."

Do I even need to say what happened next?

So Wilkerson hits his slam, Jeff starts cackling and since he's a fan of irony, he releases me from my beer debt on the promise that I "write a blog note about it." Done and done. Better that than take out a mortgage to afford five Rogers Centre beers. I'm just glad I stuck to something as generic as beer for my anti-Wilkerson taunt. I could've just as easily said if Wilkerson hits a slam, I go streaking, and thus I would've sunburned more than just my forearms at the game.

Also notable this afternoon was our group's abuse of poor Billy Butler. The Royals' first baseman has what can only be described as an ample posterior. Let's just say that if Sir Mix-A-Lot was gay, Butler would probably have had an album dedicated to him by this point. Since we were sitting down in the lower bowl, it is almost an obligation to pick on one opposing player and taunt the hell out of him, and on this day it was Butler. It was just a magical combination of his fat ass and his useless performance in the game. My friend Will got things started with a Daaaaarrrrryl-esque chant of Butler's last name, but then switched to an arguably more insulting "BUTT.....ler!" The nine-year-old kids sitting in front of us thought this was hilarious and joined in. It was truly a proud moment.

Onto the really notable part of the evening, as this may end up being a help to men everywhere. Fellas, you know when you're out with your pals and you see a good-looking woman, and you want to alert them to her presence? Now, you don't want to just be a jackass and do a wolf-whistle or something, so you have to be more subtle. At the game today, I heard the guys keep yelling out the name of former Jays pitcher Jimmy Key, and at first I thought they were indulging in some sort of Bill Brasky homage, but no, turns out that 'Jimmy Key' was their code word for a hot woman in the area. What a great idea. When you acknowledge a beautiful woman, you're not hitting on her or being crude or anything like that. You're merely tipping your cap, so to speak --- and what Jay is more famous for tipping his cap than Jimmy Key, on his way off the mound in Game Four of the 1992 World Series? Frankly, if I'm Jimmy Key, this is the greatest honour one could have bestowed upon him in a major league career. It just occurred to me that this isn't really even gender-specific, so ladies, if you see a fine-looking man walking down the street, feel free to call him a Key amongst yourselves.

In a related story, it was decided that if you were to see a woman who was just atrociously ugly, the proper phrase to use is "Josh Towers."


In my previous post I mentioned the 'neutralize stats' option at, and my pal Ryan had the hilarious idea of using it on Ty Cobb to see what he would've hit had he not been a horrific racist. Let's take it a step would Three-Finger Brown had pitched with a regular hand? Or if Jim Abbott had two hands? Or if Pete Gray had two arms? (That's right, a one-armed ballplayer once played in the was during WWII, what can I say). Or if Eddie Gaedel was six feet tall? I think if you neutralized Gaedel's stats, you'd find he'd be the greatest ballplayer of all time. After all, he had a perfect 1.000 OBP. Billy Beane would've busted a nut if he had drafted Gaedel.


Test the Nation! CBC! Sunday night! 8 PM! Me! Back row! Armchair Athletes team! Montreal Expos jersey! WATCH IT!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Self-promotion, tasteless jokes, baseball stats fun and UFC picks!

"Hey Mark, are you going to watch this Test The Nation show Sunday night at 8 PM on CBC?"
"You bet. In fact, I'm on that very show."
"No kidding! Wow, you're a regular TV star now! Heh heh, can I have your autograph?"
"...oh. Uh...I was just kidding..."
"I charge $20 per autograph. Talk to my agent."
"You have an agent?"
"My mom."


SCENE: The California governor's mansion

AIDE: Excuse me, Mrs. First Lady, I have terrible news. It appears your uncle Ted has a brain tumor.

MARIA SHRIVER: Oh no! That's terrible!

ARNOLD: It's naht a toom-ah!

AIDE: Wow.

ARNOLD: Too soon? NO! It's nevah too soon for a Kindahgahden Cahp reference! Buy dah DVDs too-day! Dahhhhh!


There are many reasons why is one of the best sites on the internet, but one of my favourite reasons is the 'neutralize stats' option located on every player's page. Baseball fans and statisticians are always looking for ways to figure out metrics for evaluating players from different eras, and Baseball Reference has come up with a way of projecting how a player would've performed in a 'neutral' ballpark and era on a normal-hitting lineup. For example, a left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium in the homer-crazy early 1930's would've had much bigger numbers than, say, a player in the deadball era, but does that necessarily mean he had a better season given the context of the era?

Take, for example, Vinny Castilla. His best season was probably 1998, when he hit .319/.362/.589 with 46 homers, 144 RBIs and a fantastic .951 OPS. Castilla's home park was Coors Field, which obviously greatly affected his numbers. So, transmogrified to a 'neutral' park, Castilla suddenly hits .278/.317/.513 with 38 homers, 114 RBIs, and a far more pedestrian .830 OPS. It's a cool way to see how good a season actually was if all things were equal.

The best part of this feature, however, is not only can the stats be normalized, but they can also be skewed in two different ways. You can see how a hitter or pitcher's stats would've translated as a member of the 1968 Dodgers (in a legendary pitcher's park during the best pitching season in baseball history) or as a member of the 2000 Rockies (in homer-happy Coors Field during the steroid-powered age).

Some of these metrics get pretty fun. Barry Bonds' record-breaking 2001 season, transported to 2000 Coors, becomes (get ready) .400/.592/1.056 for an overall OPS of 1.648, with 100 home runs (!) and 196 RBIs. Transported to 1968 Dodger Stadium, however, Barry hits 'only' 63 dingers and 99 RBI, with a line of .295/.477/.780 for a 1.257.

Conversely, Bob Gibson's legendary 1968 season is neutralized to a still-awesome 28-4 with a 1.54 ERA and 1.022 WHIP. In Coors Field, Gibson falls all the way to...uh, 26-4 with a 2.35 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Can you imagine if someone actually put up those kind of numbers for the Colorado staff in 2000? They would've renamed the Cy Young Award after him, and then dug up Cy Young and pissed into his open grave just for kicks.

But get a load of can neutralize Cy Young, too. This feature becomes especially fun when you use it on those old-time turn-of-the-century pitchers in the days before relief pitching when you could see a guy make 50 starts a year. Old Cy's career high in starts was 49, back in 1892, when he went 36-12 with a 1.93 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. Apparently the 1892 Cleveland Spiders, in spite of winning 93 games, didn't give Cy much run support, since neutralized, Young's numbers are lowered to a 1.56 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, but his record is suddenly 47-7. As a 1968 Dodger, Young would've been even better, with a 50-7 record, 1.06 ERA and 0.76 WHIP. Take THAT, Bob Gibson! Hell, even with the 2000 Rockies, Young would've won 44 games, though his personal numbers rocket up to 2.36 and 1.19. Couldn't even keep that ERA under 2.00? Cy Young clearly sucks.

I have spent way, way, too much time on this feature over the last month. And yet no matter how many times I analyze the numbers, the Blue Jays hitters still suck crap.


UFC picks!

* B.J. Penn over Sean Sherk, R2 submission. I don't want to see Sherk continue his dull reign in the lightweight division, and I think pretty much everyone agrees. This is the fight that Penn has been looking for since he returned to LW, so he's training like mad to get his first major win in years. Penn, motivated, is one of the five best fighters in the world. He will beat the HGH out of Sherk's carcass.

* Lyoto Machida over Tito Ortiz, decision. This actually might be the most important fight on the card in terms of the overall MMA world. This is Ortiz's last fight in the UFC, and he's already said he isn't resigning due to his feud/dick-swinging contest with Dana White. A loss here wouldn't really hurt Tito's drawing power, but a win over a top contender like Machida would make Tito an even hotter free agent. Say what you will about Ortiz, but he is one of the few names in MMA that would really bring some pay-per-view attention to an upstart organization like EliteXC or Affliction. Dana White would literally give his right arm to see Ortiz lose this fight in humiliating fashion. It's a huge fight, obviously, for Machida as well since a win here would be his highest-profile victory by far, and Dana White would be so happy to see Ortiz lose that it might put Machida in line for the next light heavyweight title shot against the winner of July's Rampage/Forrest fight. I think Machida will win in his usual dull style, so he'll win but still not quite elevate himself in the eyes of the casual fan.

* Wanderlei Silva over Keith Jardine, R2 knockout. This is something of a heart-over-a-head pick. Wanderlei really, really needs this win to snap his three-fight losing streak. On paper, there's no reason why Jardine couldn't use the same stick-move-and-kick strategy he used against Liddell, but I think that Chuck was too worried about the knockout in that fight coming on the heels of his knockout loss to Rampage. Wanderlei, however, doesn't give a shit. He'll wade right in there and engage Jardine since Silva is a tough bastard who (perhaps rightly) believes that it takes more than Jardine can throw to knock him out. Silva wins and gets back on track.

* Wilson Gouveia over Goran Reljic, R2 submission. I have no idea who Reljic is, but it's his first UFC fight, so I'll say he falls victims to jitters and the fact that Gouveia is way better than he is.

* Thiago Silva over Antonio Mendes, R1 knockout. Ditto.

* Rousimar Palhares over Ivan Salaverry, decision. Palhares is another newbie, but Salaverry has looked like crap in every fight I've ever seen him in. So, Palhares takes it.

* Shane Carwin over Christian Wellisch, R2 TKO. Carwin is a heavily-touted heavyweight prospect, part of the UFC's next generation of HW fighters like Cain Velaquez and Brock Lesnar. Wellisch has no real ground defense, so presuming wrestling champ Carwin can take him down, it'll be an easy win. I say it takes Carwin a round to work out the jitters and then wins the fight.

* Jason Tan over Dong-Hyun Kim, decision. Ha ha, his name is Dong! I can't pick him in good faith.

* Rich Clementi over Terry Etim, R3 submission. Clementi is on a real roll tearing through the lower tier of the LW division and I think it'll continue here. Etim has a good chance, though, given that Clementi is somewhat crazily fighting in his second straight UFC event. He fought last month in Montreal and beat Sam Stout, and stepped up quickly again to take this fight after Rob Emerson pulled out with an injury. Now, most MMA fighters are used to fighting more than once every five months like the UFC guys, so this shouldn't be a huge problem for Clementi, but still --- a one-month turn-around time doesn't seem like much.

* Yoshiyuki Yoshida over John Koppenhaver, R2 TKO. Koppenhaver, a.k.a. the War Machine, won a lot of fans after his great showing in the last Ultimate Fighter series. He's one of those guys who isn't much of a fighter, but never gives up and just goes in there throwing. Unfortunately, I think Yoshida will take advantage of his wildness and get the win. Yoshida wouldn't get the win over James 'War Machine' Rhodes, however. Rhodey would win that fight in the first round via firing a goddamn rocket.

* Rameau Thierry Sokoudkou over Kazuhiro Nakamura, R1 knockout. Soko gets back on track after a craptastic UFC debut against Machida. Nakamura is one of those guys who should drop down a weight level since he is a tiny, tiny, LHW.

I picked seven of 11 fights correctly the last time I did UFC predictions, so I think I win a Big Gulp.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm Going To Be On TV! So, Like, Watch!

Tune in to CBC this Sunday at 8 PM for Test the Nation,! Ok, me and about 190 other people. The theme for this one is sports trivia, so naturally my friend Molly (a PA at the CBC) contacted ol' sports-lovin' me to ask if I'd like to be on the 'armchair athletes' (fans) team. The show was taped in late March, and it was a real blast. I'd give more details, but I signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of appearing on the program, so a more detailed blog post about the experience will be coming after the show airs. If I spilled any details now, the CBC would send Red Green to my house to duct-tape my orifices shut. Then he'd tape my stick to the ice, if you catch my drift, so I'd be helpless while Harold mercilessly beat me with his shoulder-strapped control panel. They're a violent bunch up at Possum Lodge.

Keep an eye out for me in the back row of the Armchair Athletes' team, second from the left wearing a Montreal Expos jersey and a Quebec Nordiques toque. In hindsight, I'm not really sure why my clothing theme was "defunct Quebec sports franchises," but so be it. The only thing missing from my ensemble was Montreal Maroons boxer shorts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Best Comic Book Movies. Ever.

After three weeks of release, you don't need me to tell you how awesome Iron Man is, so let me just add my voice to the overwhelming multitude that hails is as one of the best comic book movies ever. This was just about perfectly done. The casting ended up being as spot-on as everyone expected, and you could make a strong case for Downey Jr. as being the best casting choice for any comic movie ever. The action was good, there were some genuinely funny moments, and basically the whole thing was good enough for Jon Favreau to get my nomination to direct every comic adaptation ever for the best of time. If he's not busy. Paltrow as Pepper Potts brought way more to the table than just being the token damsel in distress, Jeff Bridges was a great villain, Terrance Howard...well, he didn't have a ton to do, but as he said himself to the War Machine armor, "next time."

So the question now is, where does Iron Man rank among the greatest of all comic book adaptations? I'd put it third, behind Batman Begins and Spider-Man II. These seem to be generally acknowledged as the two masterpieces of the genre, at least until Dark Knight is released in a couple of months. Now, I'm hardly alone in saying Spidey II was awesome, but I admit to a bit of bias since Spider-Man was my favourite comic hero as a kid. I can definitely see how someone who grew up reading Iron Man might favor this film ahead of Spidey II.

And now, to expand on this discussion, LISTAMANIA IX: The Greatest Comic-Book Adaptations of All Time! I should note that I haven't seen *every* comic movie ever made. Missing are such notables as Catwoman, Elektra and the second Fantastic Four movie. But rest assured, I can certainly believe that they are as terrible as they are said to be. So they go into the first category...


34. Batman & Robin --- Possibly the worst movie ever made. I'll discuss it more in my upcoming post, The Worst Movies Ever Made.

33. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen --- I love that Sean Connery passed up being Gandalf in Lord of the Rings and Morpheus in Matrix, and after seeing those two franchises take off, he decided he should get onto the next sci-fi/comic book/fantasy project that came his way. And he picked THIS. In a related story, the body of Connery's agent has not been found.

32. Fantastic Four --- Just completely wrong in every possible way. Put it this way: Spidey II was the Spider-Man movie I had been eager to see since I was a kid. I'd imagine Iron Man fans and X-Men fans felt the same way about their movies. I could not imagine what it must've been like to be a diehard Fantastic Four fan waiting all these years for their favourite heroes to come to life on the big screen...only to be greeted by this turd.

31. Superman IV --- Just a pile of crap. Even as a six-year-old I knew this was terrible.

30. Superman III --- Just a pile of crap, but with Richard Pryor. Sadly, he doesn't refer to Christopher Reeve as a dead honky (thought now, that would technically be accurate).

29. Hulk --- Poor Ang Lee. It truly is too bad that this talented director tried to do something really innovative with this project, and it ended up just totally failing. As I've said before, the middle third of this movie is actually pretty decent, but the opening dragged and the ending was just an incoherent mess. The scene of Hulk fighting his dad (who, inexplicably, became Absorbing Man) is one of the worst-shot scenes I've ever seen in any movie. Speaking of Sean Connery killing his agent, Eric Bana should be next in line. After Black Hawk Down and a voice in Finding Nemo, he has been in nothing but total garbage ever since.

28. Blade Trinity --- Parker Posey, please join Connery and Bana on the agent-killing spree. Actually, that's not a bad idea for a movie right there....Connery, Bana and Posey as three actors who rebel against the Hollywood system and start murdering agents. It'd be a better movie than 75% of this list. My pal Dave's favourite scene in this movie is when Kris Kristofferson chews out Blade for killing humans, since they aren't the enemy. Five minutes later, police raid Blade's headquarters, so Kristofferson grabs a gun and just starts laying waste to every cop he sees. Do as I say, not as I do...

27. X-Men 3 --- This might've been a decent flick had they not decided to squeeze about 90 characters into a 90-minute movie. I love that Ellen Page went from this to an Oscar nomination for Juno.

26. Daredevil --- It gets the 'best of the worst' award since it had at least a few good scenes. 1) Daredevil destroying Kingpin's legs; all that was missing was Michael Clarke Duncan shouting out "My legs!" in a Chapelle voice. 2) The scene with Daredevil 'seeing' Elektra in the raindrops was admittedly pretty cool. 3) The dress that Jennifer Garner wore in the ballroom scene. I saw this movie with four friends at an otherwise empty theatre in Florida, and when she emerged on the screen in that dress, all five of us made a collective "Whoa" sound. It was hot enough that we even temporarily stopped harshly mocking the movie.


25. Blade II --- Notable only for the fact that Blade inexplicably busts out pro wrestling moves in his climactic battle with the uber-vampire. Upon hitting a suplex, my pal Dave (we see a lot of these movies together for some reason) actually stood up in the theatre and pumped his fist, adding an "Ohhhh!" yell. I just sat there dumbfounded.

24. Ghost Rider --- So Sam Elliott is one of the few actors to appear in two different comic franchises, both this and in Hulk. Maybe he's to blame. I think I've figured out the Nick Cage formula. When he's in a movie where his love interest is more than 15 years younger than he is, it'll suck. When his love interest is close to his own age, it'll be good. Much like how Ghost Rider walks in both worlds, Eva Mendes' cleavage walked in both the world outside of her blouse and the world inside her blouse. This was literally the only highlight of the movie.

23. Superman Returns --- A franchise that didn't need rebooting got rebooted. Really, with Smallville on the air for so many years, aren't people sort of Superman-ed out? It was even worse that Singer basically just updated the stale formula of the old Reeve movies (i.e. Superman is a Jesus figure, Luthor is a goof rather than an actual menace, Clark Kent is a massive nerd).

22. X-Men --- Most people would rate this higher, but I dunno, it didn't do much for me. Like in X3, way, way too much time is spent introducing characters. X2 found the proper balance, as we'll see later.


21. Men In Black --- Yeah, it was originally based on a comic book. Shit, I just realized that so were the Ninja Turtles movies, but I forgot to include them in the list. Shit, I just realized I wasted five seconds of life worrying about this. Anyway, Tommy Lee is crusty, Will Smith is streetwise, you know the drill. Men In Black II, which I also just realized I forgot, is most definitely in the Dreg category.

20. Road to Perdition --- This probably should be higher on the list since it's an actual quality film, but I remember being vaguely disappointed when I watched it. Perhaps my expectations were too high going in, given that it had Hanks, Paul Newman and Sam Mendes was directing. I love how the press about this movie was 'Tom Hanks is playing a villain!' when he's really just playing a hitman who ends up having a heart of gold. Hanks basically played Clint Eastwood, and had this movie come out 20 years earlier, Eastwood would likely have taken it.

19. 300 --- Some terrific action, though I sort of thought there would be more to it storywise. Snyder's direction didn't exactly give me great hope for the Watchmen movie, which I'm predicting ends up in the previous category at best.

18. Superman II --- Another one that's lower than it would be on most comic movie lists. This movie is dated as hell. It was on A&E a few months back, and boy, for a movie I remember as being great when I was a kid, it just does not hold up whatsoever. Even given the fact that it was made in the early 80's and given that comic book movies are inherently cheesy, this just did not hold up very well. Given a few more years, it might be in the Pretty Mediocre category.

17. Blade --- The movie that saved Wesley Snipes' career and led to his, uh, troubles with the law. Remember when Stephen Dorff was supposed to be the next big thing in Hollywood? What the hell happened there? His role in Blade ended up being his career peak. Yikes.

16. Hellboy --- A decent, if forgettable little movie that will probably gain a cult following given the probable success of the sequel coming out this summer. And by forgettable, I mean literally so. I remember almost nothing from the movie aside from the fact that I sort of liked it, and that it was a mark in the nay column in the ongoing debate of 'Is Selma Blair hot or not?'

15. Ghost World --- Remember this one? Thora Birch, pre-hot Scarlett Johansson, and sadly-snubbed-for-an-Oscar-nomination Steve Buscemi? Anyone? Anyone? Boy, and I thought my memories of Hellboy were spotty.

14. Punisher --- I mentioned my buddy Dave earlier. This is without question one of his five favourite movies of all time. After its release, he basically lived and breathed Punisher for the next six months (and, some might argue, to this very day). This included taking on Punisher's motto as his own, and adopting Tom Jane as a personal idol. He even adopted a workout routine based on the training regiment that Jane undertook in preparation for the film. What I'm saying is, if Tom Jane ends up kidnapped by a Misery-esque stalker, we have a prime suspect.

13. Spider-Man --- That's right, the Spidey fan extraordinaire wasn't crazy about the first Spider-Man movie. It fell into the common trap of too much time being spent setting up the origin, which was unnecessary since pretty much everyone knows Spider-Man's origin. Also, the Green Goblin --- points for casting Dafoe, minus more points for execution. The Green Goblin was pretty much the obvious choice as the villain, but they really dropped the ball on the character design.

12. The Mask --- It was technically an adaptation, though apparently the original comic was much darker and was basically totally different than what the film ended up being. But still, the movie was a lot of fun. I'm sure all nine of the Mask comic fans were appalled. Cameron Diaz has never been hotter than she was in this movie.

11. Spider-Man III --- Screw you all, I liked it. Sure, Venom probably should've been saved for the next movie. And sure, making Sandman Uncle Ben's killer was lame. And sure, the ending is as elongated as the ending of Lord of the Rings. And sure, James Franco clearly started auditioning for Pineapple Express early with his performance as 'happy Harry Osborn.' But still, overall, this film wasn't nearly as bad as people made it out to be. I'd like to see Sam Raimi come back for a Spidey IV that he can make his way, now that he doesn't have to worry about the Marvel people pushing to have Venom included in the plot.


10. Superman --- The Christopher Reeve original. I mentioned earlier how Downey as Tony Stark might be the best-ever casting in a comic movie. If so, then Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman has to be number two. Superman has to be just about the hardest possible role to cast in all of filmdom, and yet Reeve was totally perfect for the role. It also led to the great SNL skit where Reeve re-enacted his audition for Superman, and was losing out to a guy who could actually fly, catch bullets, etc. but who couldn't take the part because of a prior commitment to a juice commercial. The opening half-hour of this movie is still chill-inducing.

9. Batman Returns --- A lot of people thought this movie was too dark, but c'mon, it's not like that's unexpected given that it's Tim Burton. I actually really liked the new freakshow take on the Penguin, and DeVito pretty much knocked the role out of the park. Catwoman is widely acknowledged as one of the best-ever villains in any comic movie, and even Christopher Walken as Max Schreck is really the movie's unsung hero. Normally I'd complain about creating a new villain for a hero like Batman who has dozens of memorable villains ready to be used, but you can't go wrong with Walken. Hell, this movie gets made 15 years earlier, you could easily cast Walken as Bruce Wayne. Can someone build a time machine? I could seriously pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket to a Walken-as-Batman movie. I think I might rather see that than the legendary (but apparently untrue) Batman production that Orson Welles apparently considered making in the 40's.

8. V For Vendetta --- As Sideshow Bob's kid would say, 'Vendetta! Vendetta!' I'm docking some points because it changed a lot from the original text, but still, it was a pretty cool movie. One change I'm glad was made was that the film cut down drastically on the number of V-rhymes that V made to his enemies. That got pretty vucking old pretty quick in the comic.

7. Batman --- The first 'modern' comic book movie. It was also my first experience of a summer marketing blitz. Literally everywhere I looked in the summer of 1989, there was a Bat logo. That whole year I got into watching the old Batman TV show, read some of those Batman kids' novellas and even bought a couple of comic books. In short, that ad campaign had no effect on me whatsoever. People of my generation can probably quote about 40 percent of this movie without even realizing it. It's too bad that in many ways the Christopher Nolan Bat-films have already surpassed the original franchise as the 'definitive' Batman movies, since this and Batman Returns were actually very good.

6. X-Men 2 --- X3 was too hot, X1 was too cold, X2 was just right. The hardest thing in an ensemble cast movie is giving everyone enough time, but X2 found the formula that the other X-movies didn't. Special kudos to Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, who just about stole the show.

5. From Hell --- Curveball! This is one that a lot of folks might not even remember or give too much credit to, but I loved From Hell. I actually own a copy of it. Sure, it's not perfect...actually, it pretty much is perfect except for Heather Graham's horrible performance. Damn you, Rollergirl! It baffles me that the Hughes brothers haven't made a film since this one came out in 2001. Part of the reason I rank From Hell so highly is that the Jack the Ripper story fascinates me. I remember back in Grade 12 English, when Jack the Ripper was one of the available topics for our class presentation, but it was snatched by Jonathan Urlin. Damn you Urlin! Damn you to hell! No, I haven't gotten over it 10 years later! Arrgh! I would've kicked that project's ass! I had to settle for studying Charles Dickens. Dickens! My grandmother could do a Dickens project! *punches wall*


4. Sin City --- People kind of forget about Sin City since the comic itself wasn't a huge mainstream hit, but this is arguably the most accurate rendition of a comic's original spirit ever put to film. Given that Frank Miller co-directed, that's probably not a big surprise, but hey.

3. Iron Man --- As discussed.

2. Spider-Man II --- As discussed.

1. Batman Begins --- My buddy Trev, who generally hates comic movies, loves Batman Begins because "it wasn't really a comic book movie. It was a regular movie about a guy who happened to be a superhero." Exactly. It's the comic book movie that appeals to everyone, from the hardcores to the casual fans. It even appealed to my friend Christine, who went into the movie thinking that Batman had actual powers after being bitten by a radioactive bat (I'm not making this up).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My Parents and Larry Mullen

Before my parents left for their recent trip to Ireland, I jokingly asked them to "tell me if you run into Bono." Well, as it turns out, they apparently ran into Larry Mullen. As my mother tells the story, she and my dad twice encountered a guy in Dalkey (small suburb of Dublin) who 'looked to be a big deal' with people seemingly constantly coming up to talk to him. Once he outside a pub with his dogs, chatting with some people inside, and the next time he was coming out of a fish-and-chip shop. He apparently just passed my folks as they were entering, and said 'Hello, pardon me' as they passed.

In the words of Stunning Steve and Flyin' Brian of the Hollywood Blondes, my folks just had their brush with greatness. It wasn't until later that the landlady at their B'n'B mentioned that Larry Mullen lived nearby and often walked his dogs around the area that my parents put two and two together and came up, U2. My mum says she checked a few of my U2 albums for a picture of Larry to confirm (my mother has never heard of Google Image Search), and in fact it was him.

Disappointed about the lack of a picture or autograph? Hell yeah! This my mother we're talking about, one of the all-time autograph hounds. This is a woman who once ran down a Toronto street with her 10-year-old son in pursuit of former Jays pitcher Jack Morris. For the record, we weren't 'chasing' him, but just trying to catch up to him before he headed into his hotel. Jack was accompanied by a hot blond, for the record. My pal Kyle is probably already mentally adding this sexual conquest to his ludicrous list of reasons why Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame. Back to my mother, this is also the woman who, on an elevator ride with a long-haired degenerate and a young boy who was clearly excited by the presence of this degenerate, asked "Excuse me, are you someone famous? Could you sign my autograph book?" The long-hair grunted and signed, and then got off on the next floor. The excited kid then yelled "You didn't know who that was? That was the Renegade!" Crickets chirped. After we got off the elevator, my mother asked the front desk if anyone famous was staying at the hotel, and in fact, the star of the Renegade TV series, Lorenzo Lamas, was checked in. My mother was recently reminded of this story because Lamas' airhead daughter is apparently one of the Bachelor contestants this year.

So yeah, Larry Mullen, just one degree of separation away. Pretty damn cool. In a way, it's perhaps best that my parents didn't ask him for an autograph. My father, for whom popular music apparently stopped around 1965, wouldn't have cared less. My mother might've asked something borderline insulted like, "Are you Bono's drummer?" Then again, perhaps they would've hit it off and ended up appearing as guest musicians on the next U2 album. My mum used to teach music, so she could've played keyboards or done backing vocals. My, that tambourine won't play itself.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Finally Got On The JumboTron!....And Other Musings

After 19 years of attending ballgames at the Sk....Sky...SkyD....Rogers Centre, I finally got on the Jumbotron. It occurred last Thursday, during the Blue Jays' 13-inning loss to Tampa Bay. My buddy Dave and I were shown mid-game, around the sixth inning or so, sort of out of nowhere since we were up in the fifth deck and just calmly sitting watching the game without waving a sign, wearing face paint or accompanied by a blond in a tank top. I was so surprised I actually reacted with an 'Oh!' and looked like something of a yutz on the big screen. Fortunately the crowd was tiny enough that nobody noticed.

Then it happened again! This game, for those who didn't see it, could've served as one of the Lord's tests for Job. The Jays had their usual offensive dry spell and were down 3-0 going into the ninth. Tampa brought in their closer, Troy Percival, who hadn't allowed a run all season. I was mentally planning the route I was going to take on the drive home when, unbelievably, Toronto actually scored three runs off of Percival to tie the game. Extra innings, baby! Since I wasn't at work at the ballgame, extra innings rule! Then, after their outburst, the Jays reverted back to their usual crappy situational hitting in the extra frames. Alex Rios led off the 10th inning with a triple and, three awful strikeouts later, he was stranded. Blimey. Tampa, of course, ended up winning in 13 after Dioner Navarro cranked a grand slam to make the score 8-3. What was left of the crowd started pouring out en masse until there were literally under 1000 people left for the bottom of the 13th. It was at this point that Dave, Dave's friend Tyler and myself (who I think were the last three in our section) got on the Jumbotron yet again. This time, being a veteran of the process, I just waved.

Pamela Anderson's career got started after she was shown on the screen at a B.C. Lions game out in Vancouver. So who knows what these two (two!) JumboTron appearances may get me. Perhaps my future life will end up being a bizarro version of hers. I'll be on the cover of Playgirl magazine. I'll star in the title role in Trip Wire. I'll contract Hepatitis A. I'll make a sex tape with the drummer from Hole. The sky is really the limit here.

Of course, this isn't my first time being featured on a baseball stadium's video screen. Back in 2000, my pals and I went to Montreal and attended some Expos games. For the first few games I wore a hat, but on the last I thought to myself, "Self, you're in a domed stadium. You don't need a hat. Let the wind breeze through your hair!" This thought was pretty deluded, for one because there was no wind inside the dome and two, at this time I was balding on my way to becoming fully bald. Anyway, my decision to wear a hat ended up coming back to haunt me when Youppi, the Expos mascot, grabbed me in a headlock and started to rub my head for luck. This ended up on the scoreboard for all of the,, dozens of Montreal baseball fans to see.

In an unrelated note, Youppi had better watch his damn back. Once my lawyer finishes law school, Youp Youp's harassing ass is mine. Hurry up and pass, Kyle!


Here's the most amazing part of the Blue Jays' lack of success this season. Until the Indians laid a 12-0 whupping on them over the weekend, Toronto had a chance to win every single one of their losses this season. The Cleveland game was their only blowout. I might add the 5-1 loss to Detroit on April 21 (which I attended) just because the Tigers got out to an early lead and it was clear the Jays weren't hitting that day, but even still, the final score was only 5-1.

So, just to recap, if Toronto's hitting had been just bad, the Jays would be in first place right now. However, their lineup has been completely, embarrassingly atrocious. I dunno if these stats are totally current, but as of this moment, Yahoo is telling me the Jays are hitting .209 with runners in scoring position. It's become a joke in the press box. During the last homestand, a Jays hitter led off an inning with a single and then stole second base. My pal Jordan joked that the steal was a bad move, since now he was in scoring position and nobody would drive him in. We all chuckled...and then watched as the runner was left standing on second after a pop-up, a strikeout and a grounder. Blerg. When the Jays hired Gary Denbo as the hitting coach and propped the guy up as a video guru, they checked to make sure he's actually showing them baseball film, right? Not, say, VHS tapes of Weekend at Bernie's?

Some might look at Toronto's 19-22 record at the quarter-pole of the 2008 season and actually see it as a positive. "Look," they might say, "the Jays aren't providing any offense at all, but yet the team is still just three games under .500! Once they get swinging, they won't be stopped!"

That's all well and good, but anyone who thinks this is probably also about to log into their Hotmail folder and sent their bank account info to the Kenyan prince who's trying to get his fortune. Baseball is a game of cycles, and just as the hitting as floundered, the pitching will eventually slow down. I can believe that the Jays' rotation will have a hell of a season, but they're not going to keep up throwing quality starts each and every time out. There's nothing harder in the game than finding consistent pitching, and when you get it, brother, you'd better take advantage. And, after six weeks of largely magnificent pitching from Halladay, Marcum, McGowan, Litsch and Burnett, Toronto is just 19-22 because their hitters couldn't hit a damn beachball with men in scoring position.

So basically what I'm asking is, could the Jays be moved to the NL East for next season? Since they apparently decided that having a DH is too much trouble, they might as well be in the league where the pitcher has to hit. Swap Toronto out with, say, Florida. The Marlins can start up an interstate rivalry with the Rays, the Jays can start fierce rivalries with Atlanta and Philadelphia over the 92-93 World Series results, I'll start running through three scorecards a game trying to keep track of all the double switches, everyone wins.

Oh, remember that Rios-for-Lincecum trade that was rumoured to be on the table over the winter? Just imagine if that had gone through. Toronto's pitching would've been even better --- and the hitting would've been even worse.


One final baseball note. Asdrubal Cabrera, so you got an unassisted triple play. That don't impress me much. Yes, that's right, I'm so unimpressed that I'm mocking you via a Shania Twain lyric. Timmins represent.

You're late to this dance, Asdrubal (if that is your real name). While unassisted triple plays may be rare up in the big leagues, they're old hat to this writer. Yes, that's right, I myself pulled off the ol' UTP back in eighth grade softball. It was more or less the same play, too. The batter hit a liner to me at second, I stepped onto the bag and then tagged the runner coming from first. Easy as 3.14. Now, some might argue that my play had a much lower degree of difficulty given that it was eighth grade gym class and that the baserunners may or may not have known the rules of baseball. To this I say, pfft. I had an added degree of difficulty too! I'm a terrible baseball player! I once tried to steal second base when there was a runner already on second! (Though I did make it back to first --- top that, Cool Papa Bell.) Surely of all the people who you'd think would turn an unassisted triple play, I'd be near the bottom of the list. It would go me, Stephen Hawking, Chuck Knoblauch and then you'd have to start getting into the lists of dead people like Sideshow Bob's mayoral campaign. So the fact that I turned a UTP means that it surely can't be all that difficult. Nice try, Asdrubal. You'll have to work harder than that to top me. You'll have to, like, post a FOUR-hour AIM chat about Survivor on your own blog.


This isn't baseball, but this is unbelievably funny. This is from the TNT basketball crew of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley. They've got Kobe Bryant in for an interview, and Kenny has a spoof of Kobe's infamous 'jump over a car' video ready to go. This is just brilliant. I laughed for a good five minutes after seeing the clip. The best part is Barkley and some of the studio crew, who apparently hadn't seen the spoof, just cackling away after seeing it for the first time.

In hindsight, this video was a much better idea than Kenny's secondary plan, which was to do a spoof of Kobe raping that girl in Colorado. That might not have gone over so well. Ernie Johnson would've had a cameo in that one too, as the girl. If you've never seen Ernie Johnson in drag, well, it's quite a sight. Imagine Bea Arthur. Now, imagine the girl that Bea Arthur goes out to the club with in order to make herself look better by comparison.


Happy belated birthday Bea Arthur!