Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hot! Live! Music!

XTC, 'Great Fire/Dear God/Big Day'

'Dear God' makes me wish I had been raised Catholic and taken guitar lessons as a youngster. With this background in place, I'd travel back in time and take over my body just before the annual high school Christmas assembly, where I'd sign up to ostensibly play some innocuous rock cover, but then bust into a version of Dear God in front of the shocked gathering. It would be akin to Sinead O'Connor ripping up the picture of the Pope on SNL, even including the bald-headed singer. I'm betting the school monsignor would either cut the power or tackle me onstage. Then when I'm being led off with my arms handcuffed (the monsignor would've thought to bring handcuffs), I would yell out "Nyah, where's your messiah now, Flanders? Nyah!" in my best Wiggum impression.

Though, wait, if I go back in time into this other reality, my current mind will be in control, thus I won't be able to play guitar. Also, I don't think I really know what goes on in Catholic high schools. I suspect the monsignors also don't carry police gear. And I don't know what a monsignor actually is. This plan was not well thought out.




Talking Heads, 'What A Day That Was'

Reason #485 why Stop Making Sense was the best concert film ever: each song is treated like a separate visual entity by director Jonathan Demme. It's a simple but effective method to keep the viewer visually interested throughout the course of the movie; for example, this is the only performance in the movie that was shot entirely in medium close-ups. It's a little-known fact that Demme didn't plan on using such varied filming styles throughout the picture, but was inspired after noticing that Tina Weymouth looks different every time you look at her. In this video, she resembles an older version of Family Ties star Tina Yothers for the only time in her life. Is Tina Weymouth really Clayface? Between she and David 'Plastic Man' Byrne, no wonder the Heads were such a potent band.




Manic Street Preachers, 'A Design For Life'

My pal Dave used to derisively refer to a mutual friend of ours as a 'manic street preacher' because this friend is the sort of guy who, in Dave's words, is the kind of guy who will meet someone and go, "Oh, you're a mechanic? Then let's sit here and let me tell you everything I know about fixing cars." I found this definition amusing because this isn't actually what a manic street preacher is. In the words of Inigo Montoya, I do not think that word means what you think it does. My original choice for this song was a legendary performance delivered by the Manics at the Brit Awards in 1997 (maybe 98) but it doesn't seem to be available on YouTube. But this one is also good. Is it kind of lame that I'm openly admitting that there's another clip of this song out there that's even better? Boy, I'm a regular manic street preacher.




Bruce Springsteen, 'A Night With The Jersey Devil'

Okay, after picking a live clip that I admitted was a backup choice, I'm now picking one that isn't even a live clip. My format is truly going to hell. But it's really hard to ignore a video that makes Bruce look like the second coming of Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear. Now that Johnny Cash is dead, I think Springsteen is moving to the top of the ballot in the poll to decide who's the baddest-ass rock star. Coming in last in this voting, by the way, is Brandon Flowers. It was this video that first made me notice that YouTube has switched to a widescreen format. Has it been this way for a while, or do I have terrible attention to detail?

Hey wait a second, this blog is written in English!




Noel Gallagher, 'Rock and Roll Star'

On my long list of future blog topics, right between 'Which Golden Girl Was The Sexiest?'* and 'The Story Of The Time I Ate That PBJ' **, is going through every Oasis song and judging whether the album version or the Noel acoustic version is better. For example, Wonderwall = Noel acoustic. D'You Know What I Mean = album (the acoustic one is sadly lacking in helicopters). Supersonic = album. Morning Glory = album. Master Plan = Noel acoustic. Every Oasis song recorded in the last decade = who's listened to Oasis in the last decade? Rock and Roll Star is probably a push, for the record.

* = Rose!
** = It was tasty!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Poll Results

In hindsight, I probably should've made the 'best Simpsons character' poll into an ongoing series, sort of like my 'worst Best Picture' poll from a few months back. I could've grouped the Simpsons characters into different pools, whittled things down to an elite group of seven or eight --- a Champions League, if you will.

Anyway, the final tally went as follows. Ralph 'Unpossible' Wiggum took the victory with an overwhelming 20 percent of the vote. Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz tied for second with 15 percent each, as there are apparently still lots of Phil Hartman fans out there. Ol' Gil carried 10 percent of the vote, and there was a massive tie for fifth with Mr. Burns, Milhouse, Lenny, Comic Book Guy, Hans Moleman, Barney, Flanders and Disco Stu each taking five percent each.

This week's poll pits the ultimate guy show against the ultimate girl show. While I don't care for Sex and the City and have watched every episode of Entourage, I'm a neutral vote on the topic because I'm becoming and more and more disenchanted with Entourage with each passing week. This past season of Entourage....I mean really, what was that? It couldn't have been more phoned in unless Jeremy Piven had replaced by the Verizon guy. The only part of the season I enjoyed was Stellan Skarsgard's director character finally calling Vince out on the fact that he's a crappy actor, which I was hoping would eventually be brought up sometime over six seasons. Were it not for the fact that Gary Cole was joining the cast next season, I'd be set to give up on the show entirely.

So anyway, after biasing your vote against Entourage, out of fairness I should probably add that I've only seen the first two seasons of Sex and the City and they made me want to jump off a bridge. This poll will really just ultimately boil down to a tally of how many male and female readers read my blog.

Screw it, I'm not over this Simpsons series idea. Okay, let's make Entourage vs. SATC the first in the tournament to decide the greatest HBO program of all time. This will give me poll fodder well into the new year. (*laughs maniacally*)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Random Nonsense

Rather than produce my own material, I'd rather just link to other people's work and then make comments. Lazy? Yes. Very. What's the problem?

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I linked to this last week, but it deserves its own feature slot....Super Obama World. I haven't explored the whole game yet, but I can only presume that Joe Biden shows up at some point as Yoshi.

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Here's a good interview with the Edge about U2's upcoming album. Honestly, by this point, I have no idea what to expect from this disc. It could be a double album, it could be a single disc of Moroccan folk tunes, it could be four albums that have to be played simultaneously to create the songs (The Flaming Lips actually did this, which is pretty awesome), it could be one CD released in stores and then a whole separate album of material released online. Who knows.

All I know is that U2 are coming dangerously closer to working themselves into a corner in a manner reminiscent of 1997. That was the year that U2 delivered their Pop album at literally the last minute, thus giving themselves less time to rehearse for their PopMart tour, which resulted in the first few shows of the tour being sloppy at best. The bad press gave both the album and the tour undeserved reputations as failures, which is unfortunate given that the tour was some of U2's best live work and the Pop album is (in my humble opinion) the best record they've ever produced save Achtung Baby and Joshua Tree. Maybe U2, contrary to what they themselves believe, work better when they have a set deadline. Their recording process actually reminds me of how I used to write essays in university. I'd get the assignment and then pretty much just fuck around for the next three weeks before finally writing 98% of it the night before it was due.

(My essay-writing work ethic took a steady decline throughout school. In high school I was the kind of browner kid who'd have things done days before they were due. In first year, it turned into working on them the night before. In second year it became pulling an all-nighter to finish. In third year it was taking full advantage of the UWO English department's 'grace days' policy. In fourth year, I was having debates with myself along the lines of 'Well, if I only lose two percent for every day it's late, it's really not a huge loss if I take another night to polish things up.' It was really quite the deterioration. If you're wondering, I got grades between 78-84 on literally everything no matter how much or little effort I gave, which made my deadline crunches alternately amusing and bemusing.)

It would be unfortunate, however, if U2 releases this album in February and have only a limited time to properly rehearse a tour that by all accounts is still on track to begin in April or May. I've never understood why U2 need literally months to rehearse before going out on the road, but hey, if that's what they need to deliver their legendary concerts, whatever floats their boat. I guess an option could be to push a tour back to July, start it in Europe so they can play in the outdoor stadiums while it's still feasible weather-wise, and then tour the arenas in North America through the fall and winter. Take a break next spring (and maybe release the U2 version of Bono and Edge's songs for the Spider-Man Broadway musical in early 2010) and then tour to their heart's content in 2010 in arenas, stadiums, my living room, wherever in North America, Europe, South America, Australasia, etc.

Or, don't release the album at all, and continue to work on it until 2019 when it's finally released under the title of "Irish Democracy." Sixty-year-old Bono with cornrows will be quite the sight to see.

BTW, if U2 are looking for a name for any of these possible releases, look no further than the Edge's new guitar pedal. 'Death By Audio' would be a much more bad-ass name than 'No Line On The Horizon.'

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From the Colbert Report last week, a hilarious bit about the use of the term 'base ball' in a Jane Austen novel, thus perhaps giving the British a claim to the sport's initial creation. As Colbert put it...

"Austen wasn't writing about American baseball. It was a Jane Austen version, where the ball is not hurled about rudely, but introduced to the bat through proper channels at a society function. And one does not steal bases like a commoner; one sends word ahead to the next base by messenger, requesting permission to approach at the base's leisure. Of course, what the bat cannot reveal is that though he loves the ball desperately, he has sworn an oath of loyalty to the glove to whom the ball was promised. So the bat must pretend he hates the ball, swatting at it, though he wishes nothing more than to profess his undying affection, but he can't, he mustn't, he shan't! And so, the bat must retreat to the gardens of his estate and... pine."

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Every word that Kristen Bell says in this interview about liking this season of Heroes is a lie. What she's actually saying is, using my trusty bullshit-to-English Babelfish modulator, is "Man, am I ever kicking myself for not joining Lost instead of this deadbeat show." Given the near-universal panning that this season of Heroes is receiving, I'm glad I never started watching the show. You might my Heroes boycott odd, given my proclivity for all things superhero, but that's a double-edged sword; it's hard for me to watch a show inspired by comic stories without the show seeming like a half-assed rehash of a hundred stories I've already heard told in a more clever way 15 years ago. This also sums up why I never got into watching Smallville.*

I still can't believe that Bell (allegedly) picked Heroes over Lost due to the fact that she didn't want to spend nine months of the year living in Hawaii. This excuse became all the crappier when she then immediately went off to shoot Forgetting Sarah Marshall in, you guessed it, Frank Stall...er, Hawaii. Just a poor decision all-around, Kristen. Just think, she could've been revving up for another unbelievable season of Lost right now in the role of Charlotte. And with her in the role, Charlotte would've likely been given more to do last season than just cast furtive looks whenever Daniel Faraday said something off-kilter --- btw, there's no truth to the rumour that Rebecca Mader's prep for the role involved studying the Simpsons episode featuring the dog with the shifty eyes. The only possible downside is that Bell would've had Jeremy Davies as a romantic interest instead of Zachary "Skyler" Quinto, but, on the other hand, the guy's name is Zachary Quinto. His initial are fucking Z.Q. If he got a monogrammed robe, it would look like an unplayable Scrabble rack.

And just for kicks, here's another bonus Kristen Bell link about her childhood crush. On a scale of 1-10, how upset do you think Mrs. Osgood was about reading that article? I'm guessing roughly a 47. See, how it becomes clear that Bell didn't want to move to Hawaii since by staying in Los Angeles, she could attend Kings games and wait for Osgood after the game. See, you this is the mark of true veteran leadership on a hockey team. Any NHLer can score a decent-looking puck bunny (well, except maybe these guys), but when you're a 36-year-old goalie and you're still able to make a young starlet weak in the knees, that's truly impressive. Also, dammit, Kristen Bell likes the Wings? This is just another reason why I should've been a Red Wings fan. I could've seduced her with a throaty recitation of Kirk Maltby's career stats. I was once told I have a good voice for phone sex, so adjusting that to be a good stat-reciter-sex-guy (name pending) can't be too hard.

* = Apparently Doomsday is a character on this season of Smallville. WTF? How is that even possible? To quote the late Johnnie Cochran**, it just doesn't make any sense.

** = Isn't it weird that Johnnie Cochran is dead? I'm always thinking that he's still alive and kicking, making up rhymes and delivering theatrical closing remarks to a jury.

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Dwight's 'perfect crime' monologue from last week's episode of The Office. Just brilliant.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chinese Dr. Pepper-ocracy

Check out Chuck Klosterman's review of Chinese Democracy. I can't believe Chinese Democracy actually came out. I honestly thought Axl Rose would die either at the hands of one of his many celebrity enemies (My dark horse pick? A tag team of David Keith and Keith David, working together like Dexter and Miguel Prado), or in some sort of cornrow-induced brain aneurysm. Axl's dying words would have been some combination of the words "backing," "track," "re-dub," and "fucker."

Will I buy the album? Not likely. I'm not a big G'n'R fan aside from the half-dozen songs of theirs that everyone likes. In my opinion, Axl Rose's doesn't have anywhere near the amount of talent to account for the near-impossible level of asshole-osity that he's displayed over the last 20 years. What I'm more upset about is that the good folks are Dr. Pepper are being dicks about their promise to give everyone in America a free Dr. Pepper if Chinese Democracy was released in 2008. Well, with the album ready to go, Dr. Pepper is "living up to their promise" by allowing you to print out a coupon from their website today (Nov. 23) only, and you can then present this coupon anytime before mid-February to get your free can. Pretty weak, Dr. P. First it was getting Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth to whore themselves out as Frasier and Lillith for one of your ads, and now this. I realize that Dr. Pepper didn't want to run the risk of someone repeatedly cashing in and getting lots of free cans, though if someone actually wanted to drink that much Dr. Pepper, that's it's own punishment in my books. But really, printing off a voucher? Surely a more creative solution could've been found.

SCENE: A convenience store. A teenager walks up to the counter carrying a can of Dr. Pepper.

TEENAGER: Hi there, I'd like to get my free can of Dr. Pepper.
CLERK: Have you had a can already?
TEENAGER: No sir.
CLERK: Okay, pull up your shirt.

The teenager pulls up his shirt. The clerk takes a branding iron from behind the counter and burns the Dr. Pepper logo onto the lad's chest. The teenager reacts surprisingly calmly.

TEENAGER: Boy, that's hot.
CLERK: You'll have to cool yourself down with an ice-cold can of Dr. Pepper!
TEENAGER: You're right! Ha ha ha ha ha!
CLERK: Ha ha ha ha ha!
TEENAGER: Ha ha ha ha ha!
CLERK: Ha ha ha ha ha!

I'm bad at writing endings.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ashlee Simpson Is Dense (a.k.a. Listamania XIV)

So Ashlee Simpson and some jackass from an emo band procreated and named their son....Bronx Mowgli. I don't even have a joke here. Simpson and Fall Out Boy really went for the bargain bin choices in naming their boy after a combination of the Jungle Book and a New York City borough. Better options? I'm (Listamania!) glad (Listamania!) you (Listamania!) asked (LISTAMANIA!)


TOP FIVE BEST CHILD'S NAMES FROM THE JUNGLE BOOK

5. Mang. It only works if the kid grows up to be associated with Tony Montana. "H'okay, who's got da yeyo? Mang, is it choo, mang?"

4. Hathi. Sure, you're naming your kid after an elephant, but elephants can be pretty tough customers.

3. Darzee. I'm frankly surprised that someone hasn't already used this spelling for their newborn daughter 'Darcy.'

2. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. A good pick if you want to name your kid after a Jungle Book character but are kind of shy about it. No problem; the innocuous name of 'Rikki' will allay suspicion, aside from the somewhat odd spelling. It's only when the kid reveals his last name that the tribute is fully revealed, and since some kids hide their middle names like a state secret, it might never get out into popular consumption.

1. Shere Khan. Pretty much the undisputed winner here. It's hard to underestimate the bad-assery of naming your kid after a suave, manipulative bengal tiger. There are even two versions of Shere --- the original Jungle Book version and the suit-wearing evil millionaire version from Talespin. Also, if the boy ever misbehaved, you can bust out your best Shatner impression with a KHANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!



TOP FIVE BEST CHILD'S NAMES BASED ON NEW YORK CITY BOROUGHS
(also, if you reverse it, the Top Five Worst Child's Names Based On New York City Boroughs)

5. Bronx. Just brutal. It is less a name than the sound you make when you have a piece of phlegm caught in the back of your throat. Plus, Yankee Stadium is in the Bronx. PASS.

4. Manhattan. Another bad one. Do you really want to be associated with noted cousin-lover Shelbyville Manhattan?

3. Queens. For a boy, this is out of the question. Even if he grows up to be gay, it's still a name that will earn him a lifetime of scorn in the schoolyard at recess. For a girl, it's not a terrible name, if a bit presumptuous about your daughter's future lot in life. It would be like naming your kid Surgeon or Supreme Court Justice (Scoju, for short).

2. Staten Island. Maybe an odd choice for #2, but 'Staten' doesn't sound too out of place compared to other preppy male names like Hunter, Jaden, Cooper, etc. Also, it would be kind of cool to have 'Island' as a middle name.

1. Brooklyn. By far the best-sounding name of the bunch. It has a very melodious ring to it on its own, but the name could also be shortened to either Brook or Lyn if you want to take that route. Fun fact: the Beckhams used this name on one of their kids because, as the story goes, he was conceived there. I'm not crazy about it as a boy's name, but hey, who am I to argue with the footballer who has led Los Angeles Galaxy to zero playoff appearances? As a girl's name, Brooklyn is great. It's officially going on my list of future daughter names, right between Marquette and Markizabeth.


So clearly Ashlee and Fall Out Boy needed to go with Brooklyn Shere Khan. That's a name that inspires confidence and awe. On the bright side, the name is still available for my future progeny. If you get knocked up anytime soon, I beg of you, don't steal it! I don't want a George Costanza/Seven fiasco all over again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sods and Odds

Wide range of answers to the 'funniest SNL cast member' poll. Four-way tie for the win, with Amy Poehler, Andy Samberg, Will Forte, Kristin Wiig each picking up two votes. Forte was my pick, and I'm presuming Poehler's two votes came from someone who's never seen the show before. Darrell Hammond, Seth Meyers, Bill Hader and Kenan Thompson each picked up a sole vote each.

Fun Kristin Wiig fact: according to a NY gossip column, she made out with Joe the Plumber at the after-party of the SNL episode hosted by Josh Brolin (a.k.a. the one where Brolin was overshadowed by Sarah Palin, Mark Wahlberg and 1000 other special guests). I'd normally be upset at this since Wiig is awesome and I'd hate to see her slumming, but then again, this is Joe the Plumber we're talking about. Everything about this man is untrue. His name isn't Joe. He's not a plumber. He wasn't an undecided voter. Hell, he wasn't even a registered voter. The man is a living asterisk. Bill Simmons coined the phrase 'the Tyson Zone' for people who you could automatically believe anything you're told about them, no questions asked, i.e. You wouldn't believe that Martin Landau wrestles alligators, but you would believe that Mike Tyson would do it. Is the opposite of the Tyson Zone be the Joe The Plumber Zone, for people who you automatically disbelieve anything you're told about them? This zone would include the guy from the McDonald's commercial who takes credit for everything, and J.P. Ricciardi.

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A follow-up to my 'deserted island albums' post. My pal Jordan made a comment in regards to why I picked Pearl Jam's 6/15/2000 bootleg over any of their other thousand bootlegs or their studio albums. Basically what it came down to is that two discs of Pearl Jam goodness is better than one, hence picking it over the studio albums. And as for that particular bootleg, I have both of the PJ shows from Katowice and I literally just flipped a coin. Seriously. The 6/15 show has 'Present Tense' on it, so that's a plus. Those two albums combined are a great overview of PJ's catalogue, though obviously now a bit outdated given the lack of anything from the self-titled album and Riot Act. Hmm, perhaps it's time to get another bootleg of a new material-heavy concert on their next tour.

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Ok, I'm starting a new blog feature called 'Funniest Moments.' These will describe (spoiler alert) some of the funniest moments of my life, all of which actually happened, cross my heart. They may not be funny to you since they're sort of out-of-context, but rest assured, I found them amusing. And really, if you people are going to vicariously live through me anyway, you might as well learn what makes me laugh.

So a few years ago I'm driving in Lambeth and I'm stuck behind an impossibly slow driver. I loudly state "What the hell is this clown doing?" to myself out loud, and then pull alongside to pass him. I take a peek at the other driver and, lo and behold, it's an actual clown. Full makeup, green suit, everything.

It's a good thing I don't suffer from road rage, since if I had confronted him, 15 other guys would've come out of his car and kicked the tar out of me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deserted island albums

As in, these are the albums I would want (nay, NEED) with me if I was ever stuck on a deserted island. Since listening to music would apparently be a top priority, rather than, say, finding food, shelter, fresh water, protection from the Smoke Monster, etc. Also, in this age of the iPod, wouldn't it be easier to say "I wish I had my iPod with me if I was stuck on a deserted island," since then you'd have thousands of songs on your person instead of a handful of CDs? And where would you find new batteries for the Discman after playing these albums for days/weeks/months/years?

I'm not having as much fun with this premise as I should. Anyway, I'm going to pick 12 albums, since that's the number of regulation-sized CDs that fit into a little Music World plastic container that I picked up, as I recall, 99 cents. I have scads of these containers lying around my house. They're like vermin. They're also very irrelevant given the giant proper CD rack sitting next to my desk, so if you've ever wanted a 12-disc holder, it can be yours for the low, low price of $3.99.

In no particular order....

* Different Class, Pulp

* You Were Here, Sarah Harmer.....for a couple of reasons. One, it's a great album. Two, in the spirit of a backpacker sewing a maple leaf on their coat, I need this disc to prove to a rescuer that I'm a Canadian. It's quite possible that a foreign rescue plane might leave me stranded if they think I'm American. Hopefully Obama's election will change this.

* Stop Making Sense, Talking Heads

* Achtung Baby, U2

* The Joshua Tree, U2.....yeah, I know, rather obvious picks from the U2 catalogue, but hey, there's a reason why everyone considers these to be their two best records. If personal mixes were allowed under my (made-up) rules, I would've included a "Mark's mix" of U2 songs that I recently made for my friend Eric as a companion piece to a U2 greatest hits album that Eric requested. Eric, as you may recall, was the guy who once stated after attending a U2 concert, "That Vertigo song was pretty cool. Was that one of their hits?" I have a feeling I could've burned a "U2" disc that included three Huey Lewis songs and Tracy Chapman's Fast Car and Eric wouldn't have known the difference.

* The Beatles (White Album), The Beatles

* De Stijl, The White Stripes....this one was a tough inclusion. I figured I needed some Stripes in there somewhere, so it came down to De Stijl or Icky Thump. What happened, you might ask, to Elephant, which I once named as the best album of the 2000's? I really should've tagged that whole post with a 'opinions subject to change' proviso

* Born in the USA, Bruce Springsteen

* American Graffiti OST

* It Came From The Garage....compilation of '30 essential garage rock classics,' including material by the Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Jonathan Richman, Elvis Costello, Tracey Ullman (yes, the comedian), the Clash, the Jam and a whole bunch more. Easily the best compilation I own....

* Respect: The Soul Generation Soundtrack....except for maybe this one. Two-disc compilation of many Motown classics.

* Pearl Jam's bootleg of their show in Katowice, Poland on June 15, 2000


And, just for fun, if I happened to have a second Music World box on me....

* Nebraska, Bruce Springsteen
* Revolver, The Beatles
* Speakerboxx/The Love Below, Outkast
* Exile In Guyville, Liz Phair
* Exile On Main Street, The Rolling Stones
* Mirrorball, Sarah McLachlan
* Phantom Power, The Tragically Hip
* Pearl Jam's bootleg of their show in Katowice, Poland on June 16, 2000
* Rockin' the Suburbs, Ben Folds
* Pop, U2
* At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash
* Icky Thump, The White Stripes

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ten Things I Hate About The Dark Knight

No no, don't worry, I'm not turning heel on arguably my favourite movie ever. I'm just directing you to the title of this very entertaining YouTube mash-up of the Dark Knight and Ten Things I Hate About You trailers. After four months of thinking about it, my list of qualms with TDK is still just a few too many reaction shots of passersby to the Batmobile. That's it.* In a 150-minute movie.

* = My biggest pet peeve about other people's pet peeves about TDK is how many people disliked Christian Bale's "Batman voice." Seriously? What's the problem with it? Logically it makes sense that Bruce Wayne would disguise his voice as Batman, since his actual voice is fairly well-known (though, interestingly, Bale makes his 'dimwit playboy Bruce' voice sound more than a little like Patrick Bateman). This is another small detail of the Nolan films that is unique to Batman movies, when Batman sounded basically just like West, Keaton, Clooney, Kilmer, etc. The only real variation came in the Batman cartoons and the great voice actor Kevin Conroy, but even then, the differentiation between Batman and Bruce wasn't enough to fool, say, an experienced cop like Jim Gordon, if you're looking at things through the lens of "what if this happened in real life?"

You know what was also a good movie? Ten Things I Hate About You. I remember renting it years ago on a slow night, and this teen-centric romantic comedy ended up quite entertaining myself and three other late-teen guys in my pal Eric's basement. I caught it a few months ago one afternoon on CityTV and it still holds up well. In that scene where Ledger is singing and dancing in the bleachers during Julia Stiles' soccer practice, I remember noting that this would be a jump-the-shark moment for the movie under normal circumstances, but Ledger was talented enough to carry it off. Then I believe I said "Keep an eye on that young man," while tapping some ash off the end of my cigar and leaning back in the easy chair in my oak-paneled office with a passel of Oscars on the bookshelf. Before I break my arm patting myself on the back, I should also note that it wasn't until literally the end credits when I realized it was an adaptation of The Taming Of The Shrew. In a related story, I was an English major. My degree will be sent back to the Western registrar via FedEx by week's end.



Next up, a mash-up of Brokeback Mountain and The Patriot! I'm looking forward to seeing Mel Gibson appear to mouth "I just can't quit you" just before bayonetting Colonel Tavington in the throat. Mel will be saying some Hail Marys after that one, no doubt.


After four months and untold millions of dollars, let's look at where TDK stands in the Oscar race. It's still the sword of Damocles hanging over the Academy, having made just too much money and been such a pop-culture phenomenon that it's hard to ignore. Not that Rotten Tomatoes is a fool-proof guide, but TDK is averaging around 95% on its 'tomatometer' collection of critics' reviews. That's an incredibly high percentage of positive reviews for any movie, let alone a summer blockbuster. It has a terrific chance of standing up against the Oscar-buzz films of the winter. The common element between a lot of these upcoming movies is that there's a high threshold of disappointment ---- Australia, Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button, Doubt, even Revolutionary Road might end up being less than they're being hyped up to be at this point. That leaves the field open for Dark Knight, which is just sitting in the clubhouse with a spot in the top-five all but locked up if even just a few of those films fail to really meet their lofty expectations. If I had to guess the Oscar best picture nominees right now, I'd predict Dark Knight, Revolutionary Road, Benjamin Button, and any two of Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Doubt or Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino.

My own personal choices? Glad you asked! With the caveat that there's still a lot I haven't seen (goddamn long TIFF line for Synecdoche, New York), my major nominees would be....

Supporting Actor.....Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Aaron Eckhart (Dark Knight), Heath Ledger (Dark Knight), Gary Oldman (Dark Knight), Mark Strong (Body Of Lies and Rocknrolla)

Supporting Actress.....Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Marina Hands (Tell No One), Jane Lynch (Role Models), Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading), Kristin Scott Thomas (Tell No One)

Actor.....Francois Cluzet (Tell No One), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges)

Actress.....Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married), Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky)

Director.....Guillaume Canet (Tell No One), Jonathan Demme (Rachel Getting Married), Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky), Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight),

Picture.....The Dark Knight, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, In Bruges, Tell No One, Wall*E

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fun With College Stereotypes

As someone who went to a school most often characterized as being a campus full of Paris Hilton types in JUICY sweatpants and guys with puffy vests and frosted tips, I'm well aware of the fallacies of college stereotypes. I'm sure all of the farmers who went to Guelph and the functional retards who went to Brock would agree with me. Maybe this is why a recent casting call looking for actors to portray college students for an ESPN college basketball commercial. The casting call was, in a word, hilarious. Full credit to Awful Announcing for picking up on the original item.

Let's just take a look at some of these character types that ESPN is looking for....


[ DUKE UNIVERSITY ]
MALE. Our guy for Duke UNIVERSITY is a smart, with it, young WHITE male. He's handsome. He's from money. He is, in short, the kind of guy, everyone can't stand. He is the kind of guy everyone wants to be.

[ NORTH CAROLINA ]
FEMALE. She's a Southern bell. She is the counterpoint to Duke. Being young and pretty everyone wants to be around her. She's charming. Not a dingbat, she's sharp.


I'm suddenly wondering if my buddy Larkin got a job at a casting agency, since he's the only person I know of outside of Archie Comics that actually uses the word 'dingbat.' Anyway, I guess to counter-act Dick Vitale's Duke bias, ESPN needed to cast a pro-UNC image between the two schools here --- 'everyone wants to be around' the Tar Heel, whereas 'everyone can't stand' the Duke guy.' On the plus side, the Duke guy is at least an animate object. The North Carolina girl is a 'Southern bell,' which I'm presuming is a typo for 'southern belle,' but hey, you don't often see giant anthromorphic bells outside of tourism ads for Philadelphia. The Duke casting call comes just short of including the Sarah Silverman-coined term "date-rapey."


[ TEXAS ]
MALE. Straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, Texas is a young man's man. He is the kind of guy that could field dress a deer and then take you to the debutante ball in 20. Polite, farm boy. He's good at everything. Except call centering.


I'll never forget that time I was supposed to take Suzie O'Malley to the debutante ball, but I showed up at her door still covered in deer blood from my afternoon of hunting. I knew I should've taken 25 minutes, instead of 20. Gee whiz! If only I had grown up in Texas! Suzie and I would've been necking at Makeout Point for sure! And then we would've gone to Necking Point to make out!


[ KANSAS ]
MALE. Kansas is straight off the farm. However, he takes great pains to point out that Kansas is very cosmopolitan, as witnessed by their record, their burgeoning tech industry, and their hybrid corns (bonus: modified by fish genes!)


What the hell? Chances that the casting director had an irritating run-in at a cocktail party with someone from Topeka who was a little sensitive about his state's reputation: 95 percent.


[ CONNECTICUT ]
MALE. Connecticut is all things Connecticut. He's a little bit older. He's a little bit thicker around the waist. He's WHITE. He's also competitive. Very. Waspy, blue blood.


He's not white, he's WHITE. Also, I know a lot of these schools are in the same states, but they could've just saved a lot of time by writing '[School character] is all things [State school is in]."


[ OKLAHOMA ]
MALE. Oklahoma is awesome and he thinks everything is awesome. He's very enthusiastic about all things call center and all things life and he wants to share this contagious enthusiasm with everyone he meets. Wide-eyed, as naive as they come.


My cousin once worked in a call centre and was ready to go on a five-province killing spree after about half a day. There is nobody in the world "enthusiastic about all things call center."


[ LOUISVILLE ]
MALE. Louisville is very true to place. He's short. He's HISPANIC. And one day he hopes to carry on in proud Louisville tradition and race thoroughbreds.


He's not Hispanic, he's HISPANIC. In a related story, Jefferson County, Kentucky's most recent demographics study revealed that Latinos make up 1.78% of the population. So this ad is clearly right on the money. Also, if you go to Louisville, you apparently are destined to become a jockey. Boy, that Rick Pitino clearly is a genius if he can create a winning basketball team from a student body that apparently has an average height of 4'10.


[ TENNESSEE ]
FEMALE. Tennessee is orange crazy. The ice tray in her orange fridge, that freezes the water she dyes orange, is that orange. The party girl cowboy hat she wears is a white and orange zebra print. The tattoo on her lower back is Pantone 3 for that Tennessee orange. The only thing that's not orange is her dog, which is the mascot Smokey. Did we mention she's crazy? A slutty girl who would hang out at the cowgirl hall of fame.


Congrats, Tennessee women. Your national image is that you'll spread for anyone wearing Vols orange.* First of all, I think the writer had a stroke halfway through that second sentence. Secondly, of all things they could've used to emphasize how Volunteer-crazy this chick is, they decided to focus on her ice tray? What the hell? I think the idea was taken from what fans of the old Indianapolis Ice minor league hockey team used to do to show their support. Those fans used to put water in the ice trays of their white-coloured fridges, freeze it....and that was basically it. There's not much you can do with the nickname.

* = my original joke here was a very laboured pun that tried to rhyme 'Rocky Top' with something like 'cock throb.' It just didn't work. I feel like I've failed poets everywhere.


[ PURDUE ]
MALE. Child prodigy. 14-year-old. Or open to an 18-year-old who looks 14. Aeronautical engineering. Wiz kid. Think McLovin from Superbad.


Just so you know, a 'wiz kid' is someone who is either a big Diana Ross fan, or is into golden showers. Or both! Poor McLovin --- I just saw the actor (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) in Role Models, and he is going to be stuck being 'McLovin' for the rest of his natural life. Here's hoping the kid pulls off a Neil Patrick Harris-esque career rehab. Anyway, is Purdue really known as a techie school? I guess it makes sense --- if they were known as Boilermakers a century ago, it stands to reason that they've evolved to Rocketmakers.


[ VILLANOVA ]
MALE. Villanova is the poor man's Duke — he's not quite as handsome, he's not quite as rich, he's not quite as dapper. After 2 or 3 beers though, who cares? As he's friendly enough.


So, not date-rapey, but just date-unwanted gropey. Sort of like Artie Ziff and Marge Simpson. Man, Artie's whole spiel about Marge not telling everyone about his "busy hands" was just pure gold. I think I've used the 'good NIGHT' inflection roughly a million times over the last 15 years.


[ NOTRE DAME ]
MALE He's an ASIAN kid who is in to all things Notre Dame, ridiculously so. Oh, and he's always fighting. Every time we encounter him he always has some words or another, be it the faint traces of a black eye, or a scab or whatever. He epitomizes the fightin' Irish.


He's not Asian, he's ASIAN. This is truly a sign of the multiculturalism of our times. Usually the stereotype would be an Irish-Catholic kid (a mixture of Rudy and the "you wanna fight about it" guy from Family Guy) to represent the Fightin' Irish, but instead, this casting company decided to focus on the "fightin' " part. That's the kind of thinking that wins Clios. Or, just derision on blogs. I can't wait until we get to the Cal State-Bakersfield Roadrunners and it's just some guy dressed as asphalt with a yellow line down the center of his face.


[ PITTSBURGH ]
FEMALE. Pittsburgh is a tomboy. She obviously grew up in the neighborhood and isn't going to take any guff from anyone and she'll wallop you in the eye with a crowbar if you suggest different. So don't. Think Tina Fey type.


A 'Tina Fey type' equates to 'a tomboy who will beat the shit out of you with a crowbar'? I don't think this person is a very good casting director. Either that or else they were just big Sarah Palin boosters. That being said, I think I would pay $100 to see Tina Fey star in the Charles Bronson role in a remake of Death Wish.


[ SYRACUSE ]
MALE. Jewish kid from Long Island that is loving the college experience. It has opened up a world he never knew existed. All you can eat buffets in the cafeteria — who knew? To Syracuse, everything is a party.


Wait, he's just Jewish? Why isn't he JEWISH? Anti-semitism! Also, I love that this character apparently grows up in NYC, but to really experience the high life, he has to go to the wild, crazy, big city of Syracuse.


[ GEORGETOWN ]
FEMALE. Georgetown, a 4.36 GPA who's lived in 9 world-class cities, but all the time in her sister's shadow (her GPA is 4.37). She's sort of the female Duke, except most people like her. Think Reese Witherspoon.


And, with a few more movies like Rendition and Four Christmases, ESPN might actually be able to get Reese Witherspoon! C'mon Reese, I know there's such thing as a post-Oscar hangover, but come on now. You're already up to a 0.2 on the F. Murray Abraham Scale.


[ GONZAGA ]
MALE. No one knows what Gonzaga looks like because no one knows where to find him. He is still stuck in the grunge look, reckless, in from the wild. Flannel look. Chews tobacco. Guy that would go to school in the Pacific Northwest.


Who can forget all of those times that Nirvana interrupted their concerts so Cobain could have a chaw onstage. Speaking of grunge and Seattle, I guess this is as good a place as any to bitch about Rolling Stone leaving Eddie Vedder off of their 'Best 100 Singers Of The Rock Era' list. That is an unfathomable omission. That's like doing a list of 'Best 100 Cities In North Dakota' list about leaving out Fargo.


[ MARQUETTE ]
FEMALE. Marquette, on a scale of 1-10, she's a six. A B-, C in every category you can define a person by. Her defining characteristic is you don't really remember her. You're not breaking your arm to get to her, but you're not chewing it off to get away. She does have a winning personality though. Midwest, sweet girl.


Jesus, what a slap in the face to the fine women of Marquette. Unless the school is actually a feeder for the CIA, "not memorable" should never be the highest compliment you can give to a student body. I plan to send my future daughter (whose name will be Marquette, future wife's approval pending) to this university, so I'm personally offended by ESPN's blatant mischaracterization of Midwestern women. For any Marquette ladies out there who need a shoulder to cry on, feel free to drop me an e-mail and we can discuss the subject. And on a totally unrelated note, how do you feel about naming a child after your alma mater? If we have a boy, I'll have to call my own veto and name him UWOwen.


[ MICHIGAN STATE ]
MALE. Blue collar to the core. Michigan State is one tough kid that grew up by putting a few down. That's just Michigan State's way. Big beefy kid.


Hmm, the only Spartan I know lost a bunch of weight and now he's running marathons. How accurate is this, Jordan? Did you guys just walk around campus getting into sporadic brawls?


[ MEMPHIS ]
MALE. What can we say about Memphis? He's a southern BLACK kid, really culinary and polite. He's artistic, and draws comic books really well.


He's not black, he's BLACK. Can you use "culinary" as a verb? It sounds odd, as if the casting agent was actually a cannibal with a taste for southern comic book artists. If this commercial was ever made (which, odds are, it won't), there is a 150 percent chance that Memphis' artistic side would be represented by nothing else than a Batman t-shirt. Maybe, if the director was clever, a Venom shirt.


[ MARYLAND ]
MALE. He plays lacrosse. A dude. Low key. Mid Atlantic, wears baseball hats and chinos.


You might think that "baseball hats" is just some idiot's idea of what baseball caps are called, but you'd be wrong. 'Baseball hats' were actually the most common type of headwear worn by players in the 19th century. They were Abe Lincoln-style stovepipe hats that rose a minimum of three feet on a batter's head. The idea was that the bigger the hat, the more intimidated the opposing team would be. Sadly, baseball hats became a thing of the past when Billy Hamilton of the old Boston Beaneaters wore a hat so tall that it tipped over and killed four fans in the bleachers on a warm July day in 1898. The other 26 patrons at that afternoon's baseball match were refunded their nickel, thus causing a financial crisis that forced the Beaneaters franchise to collapse and ultimately become a traveling circus carnival. Poor old Hamilton always regretted wearing such a jaunty baseball hat every time he had to sweep the dung out of the elephant's cage.


[ OHIO STATE ]
MALE. He looks like Jim Tressle (head coach of Ohio State football) in the dress code. Red sweater vest. Always. Doesn't care for swearing either — of course we never really test this out as they are commercial advertisements and no one swears in them, but it's true nevertheless. A Republican.


Hey, Ohio is a blue state now! Misspelling the OSU coach's name is one thing, but this casting call gets into some pretty fourth-level method acting. "Your character is the type who doesn't like swearing, as evidence by the fact that he never swears. Try to bring this out in your 20 seconds of air-time. Plus, your character was also beaten as a child."


[ ILLINOIS ]
MALE. African-American. Young Obama. Think Toofer-the straight-laced, Harvard grad writer from 30 Rock (Keith Powell)


Great 30 Rock reference here. It's awesome that Keith Powell's name is included, as if there's someone in the world who actually thought, "Toofer, Toofer...which character is that? Oh, the one that Keith Powell plays! Now I get it!" It's also awesome that we get a 'young Obama' reference. Forget about David Palmer --- Toofer was clearly the TV character that paved the way for America to elect a black president. Wait, sorry, not America, Super Obama World.


[ OKLAHOMA STATE ]
FEMALE. She's a fun loving girl, Oklahoma born and bred. Decided not to travel out of State so she should be closer to home. She's a flirt. She's a hot chick.


If you take the last letter of each word in the second sentence, it spells out C-L-E-A-V-A-G-E. Well, not really, but it's implied.


[ TEXAS A&M ]
MALE. True to the region, Texas A&M is one tough dude. He's not big physically, but he is imposing. He's an ROTC kid and his 100-yard stare lets you know it.


Sounds pretty bad-ass for a school whose football team is 4-6.


[ BAYLOR ]
MALE & FEMALE. Baylor is not one people but two. It's a couple. In fact, we're not even sure which one goes to Baylor. We only know they are madly in love. Their world is each other, which is really sweet or really sickening, depending. Think Sheri Oteri and Will Farrell as the cheerleaders.


And we end with perhaps the most bizarre one yet. So apparently the stereotype of Baylor students is that they all love commitment? Is the Baylor campus a focal point of love and schmoopiness that is always five seconds away from turning into the orgy scene in Perfume? What the hell? Also, as any true SNL fan would note, Will Ferrell's character had an unrequited love for "Sheri" Oteri's character, but she wasn't into him at all.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Random Nonsense

One downside to being in London: I missed a notable anniversary. On Nov. 6, 2006, Kevin Federline received a text message from Britney Spears informing him that she was divorcing his ass. K-Fed got the news while he was eating dinner at the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in downtown Toronto near the Hilton. My pal Brian informed me of this fact last year, and we were both upset that we missed the date. So a vague plan was hatched to go to Ruth's Chris on Nov. 6 of this year in order to commemorate.....uh, this man's marriage falling apart. It's sort of like our version of Remembrance Day, minus the veterans and without a recitation of 'In Flanders' Fields." My alternate composition, "In Ruth's Steakhouse" lacks some of the emotion. It's probably due to the fact that of the 15 lines, 12 of them end with the word 'steak.' This means I even rhymed 'steak' with 'steak.' I'm a worse lyricist than Federline himself.

Anyway, Brian and I both completely forgot about our arrangement and since I moved back to London on the fifth, the situation couldn't have even been salvaged by a late-evening 'oh shit!' phone call. Sigh. Until next year. Remember remember the sixth of November.....

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One upside to being in London: the Rainbow Cinema in the delightfully tomb-like Galleria. Not only did I enjoy in not one, but two movies this afternoon (ah, cheap Tuesday --- two films for a mere $8.40), but I continued my streak of always finding something amusing when attending the Rainbow. Once, it was running into my former high school drama and English teachers, respectively, and having an awkward 10-minute conversation featuring my trying to not bring up the fact that I missed out on some scholarship money since my English teacher refused to bump my 88 up to a 90 in OAC English. Bitter. Ness. There was also the time I went to see a film and literally all of the half-dozen employees working that day were goths. Not full-out goths, but just makeup and black hair while in their Rainbow Cinema uniforms.

Anyway, today's bit of amusement came from the Muzak they play in the theatres before the shows. It's not just regular Muzak, no sir. It's Muzak versions of Foo Fighters and Radiohead songs. You haven't lived until you've heard "Big Me" on the violin and cello. And I'll tell you, it still made me instinctively want to go to the snack counter and get some Mentos. That damn video. Had the cover of "High & Dry" been played, I'm sure I would've wanted to eat fries in a styrofoam box (bomb optional).

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I've been informed that the midget in the InterCasino.net commercial looks exactly like me, if I were roughly two feet shorter. Upon further review, this appears to be correct. I have no joke here.

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The ballots have been counted, and it's Bartlett by a landslide in the 'best fictional president' poll. Ol' Jed took 38 percent of the ballot and was the only candidate to get more than two votes. The runner-up, hilariously, was Kang. If you're wondering how a tyrannical alien overlord could possibly get any support, well, now you know how I feel looking at the US the last eight years. Collecting one vote each were Merkin Muffley, David Palmer, Jackson Evans, Jack Ryan, Dave Kovic and Alan Alda's unnamed president in Canadian Bacon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

UFC 91 predictions



Dana White is apparently a big fan of the Lost episode "Not In Portland." UFC 91 was originally scheduled to be held in Portland's Rose Garden, but when the big Couture vs. Lesnar match was signed, the event was moved to Las Vegas. White's logic was that Vegas has a better infrastructure for major events like this --- more hotels, more party areas, etc. I can see White's point, but c'mon, Portland got hosed. If I'm an Oregonian, the next time the UFC comes to my state with some lower-tier card, I'm staying at home to watch on TV. Then again, I stay home to watch everything on TV. And I don't even live in Oregon, though I did consider becoming an Oregon Ducks fan during my brief flirtation with picking a favourite college football team.

* Gabriel Gonzaga over Josh Hendricks, R1, TKO
Gonzaga might be fighting for his UFC life, given that he's lost two of his last three fights and Dana White seems to be in a fat-trimming mode in the HW division. Fabricio Werdum was released earlier this week, though in Werdum's case, that may have something to do with the fact that he just signed a big new contract and was then promptly knocked into next week at UFC 90. One would think the younger, cheaper, more-upside Gonzaga might stick around for a bit longer, but who knows. Anyway, John Stockton's favourite fighter should get the win over the unknown Hendricks. If Josh Hendricks is related to Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, then all bets are off --- who wouldn't want her at ringside supporting her brother/cousin/whatever for future fights?

* Amir Sadollah over Nick Catone, R2, armbar
Sadollah is an odd case. He's obviously talented, but he's so green that the UFC has to be very careful about who they pick to face their TUF winner. In this case, the choice is apparently Nick "No, I'm Not In A Boy Band, Why Do You Ask?" Catone. I would suspect this guy is a total can, so Sadollah takes it with his patented Dollway-bustin' armbar.

* Demian Maia over Nate Quarry, R2, some kind of submission
This one is the classic striker vs. submission expert battle. Maia is unbeaten in his career, and Quarry is unbeaten (2-0) since returning from major back surgery. Quarry will get a better fight from Maia than he did from Kalib Starnes last April, when Starnes literally ran away from Quarry for the entire match; just in case you were trusting my judgement with these picks, remember that I picked Starnes to win that fight. Oops. Anyway, this should be a pretty solid bout given that Maia isn't great on his feet and Quarry has never been submitted in his career, but I'd still favour Maia to end up figuring out a way to get Quarry to tap.

* Kenny Florian over Joe Stevenson, decision
Poor Kenny Florian has had to put up with some bullshit. He's been as hot as any fighter in the company, winning his last five fights, and yet his well-deserved LW title shot has been forever delayed like a Manic Street Preachers greatest hits album. The problem is that BJ Penn, who doesn't like to fight often anyway, is already booked to fight Georges St. Pierre on Jan. 31, so even though Florian is already the clear #1 contender to the lightweight title, he decided to take this very tough fight against Stevenson in the interim rather than sit out for 9-10 months while Penn clears his schedule. Ironically, if Penn beats GSP and becomes the welterweight champ, then #1 WW contender Thiago Alves is the one who'll be on the shelf for a while since Penn will have to defend his LW crown against Florian first. And now you see why Dana White doesn't like to skip between divisions. I would expect Florian to eke out a tough decision over Stevenson, and then hope that Penn beats St. Pierre and decides to vacate the LW title so Florian can fight someone else (Gray Maynard?) for the vacant belt. If Joe Daddy wins, he would probably face Sean Sherk in a 'Victims of BJ' eliminator bout.

* Quick prelim predictions.....
Dustin Hazelett over Tamdan McCrory, R1, chokeout
Mark Bocek over Alvin Robinson, decision
Rafael dos Anjos over Jeremy Stephens, R2, tapout
Matt Brown over Ryan Thomas, decision
Aaron Riley over Jorge Gurgel, decision

* Randy Couture over Brock Lesnar, R2, submission
This one took some thinking. It's one of those fights were, on paper, there are actually two schools of conventional wisdom. The casual fan might think, "Good lord, Brock's a beast, he'll overwhelm old man Couture with his power and just grind him out." Or, another casual fan might think, "Randy Couture, the cagey veteran to end all cagey veterans, is fighting a guy with just three pro fights, so Randy can surely use his superior knowledge of MMA to overcome Brock's athletic prowess." I'd be more inclined to go with the latter school of thought for the following reasons.

First, Randy is arguably the best game-planner in the sport, and given that Randy is, shall we say, picky about who he fights, it's probable to think that he wouldn't have taken a fight against Lesnar if he didn't have some idea about how to beat him. Second, Brock is still quite raw. He got easily tapped by Frank Mir after Mir was able to weather Brock's initial storm, and in Brock's win over Heath Herring, he had Herring totally controlled and dominated for all three rounds but couldn't figure out a way to finish. Couture is obviously way better on the ground than the clueless Herring, so if Brock wrestles Randy down on Saturday, Lesnar will have to actually do something in order to avoid being submitted. Thirdly, the timing. Lesnar's last fight was in August. Couture's last fight was in August 2007. The longer layoff is probably a better thing for the middle-aged Couture, whereas the 'take Brock along slowly' strategy was thrown out the window and now he's facing the HW champion on three months' notice. I'm just not sure that Lesnar has the cardio to last five rounds at this point in his MMA career.

In the end, the reason I'm picking Couture is because Couture ultimately has more to lose. He's spent the last year squabbling over his contract, 'retiring' and exploring every possible avenue to get a fight with Fedor Emelianenko. Now, after coming back to the UFC with his tail semi-tucked between his legs, Couture knows that he'll have to win this HW title tournament if he wants any shot of making a Fedor fight both happen, and happen with any major fan interest. If Couture loses here, the UFC could book his next fight against another top opponent, and then another loss could get Couture cut and then suddenly the Fedor vs. Randy bout isn't very marketable. If Couture beats Lesnar and then beats the winner of the Nogueira/Mir fight for the HW title, then suddenly Couture is on top of the world and Dana White would see enough dollar signs to swallow his pride and bring in Fedor. If Lesnar loses, sure he loses a HW title opportunity, but that's just gravy at this point in his young career anyway. There's plenty of time to rehab himself.

So my prediction is that Randy gets a submission from the ground, or else he wins when Lesnar knocks himself out trying a shooting star press from the top of the cage. By the way, pray that neither Couture or Lesnar gets hurt in the next few days, since if their fight is canceled, this event goes in the running for Worst UFC PPV ever. It wouldn't even deserve to be held in Portland.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Arrivederci Toronto

So I woke up today to the sound of a ringing phone and to the smell of instant coffee. I roused myself up, went downstairs (that's right, there's a downstairs), poured myself a borderline-enormous bowl of Raisin Bran, read the London Free Press, then spent a good chunk of the afternoon both indulging in a Rogers cable package and helping my parents put patio furniture into the shed.

Yes, that's right, I'm home. For the third straight year, my Toronto work commitments have ended by November 1, thus leaving me with no solid financial reason (nor ability) to stay in the Big Smoke. As my friends Ian and Aron say, it's like I'm going into my hibernation. I go to Toronto for several months of the year, but come the colder months, I schlep back to London and disappear. This is not, for the record, the first time I've been compared to a bear --- my friend Antonio once said that if I was gay, I'd be the type of gay male known as 'a bear.' I decided to take this as a compliment. It also occurred to me that perhaps the perfect example of a 'bear' homosexual would be Al Borland from Home Improvement. He has a beard, he wears flannel like it's going out of style (editor's note: it is out of style), and he spends his day handling tools alongside a grunting male. Wait a second, have I just stumbled onto a hidden subtext of Home Improvement? Maybe Wilson kept his face hidden as a metaphor for hiding in the closet, not being able to reveal his true self.

But really, aside from the body hair and love of pic-a-nic baskets, I have little in common with bears. For one thing, I doubt that bears go back to their caves kicking themselves for not being able to find a job in order to keep them awake and in Toronto all year round. Also, very few bears read the London Free Press. I attribute this to bears having a reading comprehension level above the second grade. But hey, it'll be fun being back home for a few months. I already know I'm coming back to TO in the spring, so this is in many ways a vacation. I get to kick back, catch up on my reading and writing, hang out with some of my closest friends, and come up with more clever ways to mock my dad for being a Cleveland Browns fan (example #1: show him a tape of Thursday's game against Denver).

Plus, not to mention the fact that from living at home for a few months, I get to re-live parts of my childhood. Sleep in the same bed, use the same old PC downstairs....though I guess I'm technically perpetuating a stereotype by blogging from my mother's basement. Hell, I even got into an argument with my brother today. It was just like 1997 all over again.

God, I need a job.

But anyway, pay no attention to my being huddled in a ball on the floor. Farewell, Toronto. Goodbye old apartment in Swansea. Take care, BMO Field and Sk....Sky.....Rogers Centre. So long, John's Italian Caffe, located on Baldwin Street and possessing such delicious pizza (tell 'em Mark sent you, and maybe you'll get some extra-fine service, provided the server knows someone else named Mark and presumes you're talking about them). Bon voyage, gloriously never-busy University/Avenue Road; have I just had great luck, or is that street always so traffic-free? See you soon, Lakeshore Boulevard walking path. Back in a while, all of my Toronto friends. Bonne nuit, Wheat Sheaf pub and that one clueless waiter who seems to have taken his serving lessons from Lisa Kudrow's character in Mad About You. And streetcars, I think I'll miss you most of all.

On the bright side, I wasn't woken up by a fire alarm test this morning like I was in the previous THREE FUCKING mornings in my old apartment. That's right, our family doesn't even have a smoke alarm! We don't believe in 'em! It's due to our religion, Selective Amish. Don't even get me started on the indoor plumbing situation. I just use our shed as a latrine. Sure made putting that lawn furniture away into a real interesting task.

Monday, November 03, 2008

halloVeen



Creepy as shit, eh? I decided to put a bit of effort into this year's costume after phoning in the last few Halloweens. Last year I went as Charlie Brown, which entailed simply putting on my Charlie Brown-patterned shirt. In 2006 I was....hmm, that's odd, I literally have no memory of Halloween 2006. Uh oh. Either I'm going senile or else I just stayed at home like a lump and dressed as a surly guy who got gradually more irritated at answering the door for trick-or-treaters. In 2005 I was Mr. Clean, which was pretty simple aside from some white eyebrow paint. I haven't really come up with anything truly original since my legendary NAFTA costume in 2003.

So clearly it was time to raise the bar a little bit. My first idea was to get a Predator mask and Hugh Hefner-esque pajamas and robe, and then go as a Sexual Predator. So I went down to McCullough's in London and looked around for a Predator mask, but no dice. It's possible they were all sold out, or else maybe it's just a damn complicated mask to get one's hands on without being a personal friend of the late Rick Baker. I did see a couple of Alien masks, so in this round of Alien vs. Predator (which, in my world, is more like Kenny vs. Spenny), Alien wins the "whose costume is more readily available" contest. The punishment for Predator is that he....has to watch Alien vs. Predator. Unfortunate.

The mask I did pick up, after all of this, was a V mask, as in V For Vendetta. Immediately my creative brain went into overdrive trying to think up some clever costume rather than just going as V himself --- I could find a shirt with giant 'D,' a giant W or a giant 8 on it and go as either a VD, a VW or a V8. Or I could wear the mask and golf gear and go as V-jay Singh, though that ran the risk of being tres racist.

But in the end, the choice was simply the V mask plus the panama hat, Hawaiian shirt and cargo pants. Ergo, I was V For Vacation. To drive it home I should've constantly carried around a fruity drink with one of those bendy straws, which also would've been convenient given how I needed a straw to drink anything anyway. But still, it was a V-ery effective costume. My friend Maggie was literally scared of the mask and pretty much just glared at me all evening long. This also led her to post the immortal message, "I hate your awful face" on my Facebook wall. I dunno what her problem was --- she came as Rihanna, and you didn't see me get all freaked out due to my aversion to shitty music.

The actual Halloween involved three(!) separate parties, which maybe sounds social, but when two involved cover charges, it made one (read: me) sorta wish there had just been one central party locale. The first was a house party in Little Italy, which ended up actually being thrown by some friends of mine --- I had merely been told 'oh, a friend is hosting' by a mutual friend, and it turned out this mutual friend was friends with some other old friends of mine. I made that sound way more complicated than it was. It was more like, "Oh wait, THIS is the address we're going to? I know these people! Yaaayyyy! [/Kermit]" The best part about walking in full V getup in Little Italy was that some Italian guys actually yelled 'Vendetta! Vendetta!' at me like they were Sideshow Bob's son or something. Good times.

So, the costumes on display in our group included: Tippi Hedren from The Birds, T-Pain, Cat Deeley, Dracula, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin's Russian friend, Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes, a female Robin Hood's Merry Man (so, a Merry Woman?), Bunsen and Beeker and, as noted, Rihanna. This was the crew that headed off to another party at the Legion (ah, patriotism), and then down to Captain John's, a.k.a. that boat/seafood restaurant down at Yonge and Queens Quay. Captain John's was something of a gong show. The hallways were more crowded than the hallways of the Titanic when the boat started to take on water. The bar was run on a complicated token system which just jammed things up even more as now people had to first wait in line to get a token like it was a frickin' carnival or something, and then had to stand in line yet again just to get an overpriced drink. For shame, Captain John's. I'll never eat there again. [Editor's Note: Mark has never eaten there and doesn't really like seafood. Idle vows are always fun.]

The next night's party was just a singular house party event, held on November 1 and thus really more of a Daylight Savings party. Though everyone came in costume --- I guess we set our clocks back one whole day, eh gang?!?! What a Bob Saget joke. Anyway, the highlights here included Teen Wolf, Dexter, a ten-dollar bill, Magnum P.I., Bernie from Weekend at Bernie's, Poison Ivy, two Care Bears, Mr. Halloween (a collection of generic, shitty costumes all in one), Juno and Bleeker, Anton Chigurh, a sperm, Robin and Nightwing (my pals Ian and Dave, both of whom spent upwards of $200 on their costumes and, in Ian's case, actually spent the previous three months working out to do the costume justice. Dude.), Catwoman, a Ghostbuster, the devil, a banana, a pirate, Amy Winehouse and the winner of the evening's costume contest, my friend Chelsea as a middle-aged cougar. Interestingly enough, the first couple of people to see my costume said, "Hey, Guy Fawkes!" so it was a pretty well-educated crowd. Then I kicked myself for not wearing the mask and a prosthetic leg and going as Terry Fawkes. My friend Matt at least thought I was actually Angel from Dexter, which was pretty hilarious. Go back and look at that picture of me again. If David Zayas is reading this blog, a single tear is no doubt running down his face as he is on the verge of an Elephant Man-esque diatribe about how hideous he looks. Don't cry, David --- take solace in the fact that every Halloween, you can always wear a stethoscope and go as Dr. Zayas, and sing that Simpsons tune from the Planet of the Apes musical all night.

Final tally over the two nights: four Jokers, four Sarah Palins. It's a draw! Those were by far the two most popular costumes for men and women respectively this year. My friend Lori (the Palin from the first party) was worried her outfit wasn't going to be very original, so I suggested a half-Palin, half-Joker hybrid. Just wear a purple power suit, half of which is all dirty and grimy, paint half your face and hair, and boom, there it is. It's the perfect postmodern summation of the 2008 Halloween season --- half crazy maniac, and half Joker.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mark and Kyle's NFL Midseason Report

Team-Up #5: Mark and Kyle Discuss the NFL, Mid-Season Edition

Mark: Well, before we get started, holy cow did you underrate that Jon Hamm SNL. That was a great episode.

Kyle: Didn't I say it was the best of the year next to Hathaway? Maybe I didn't...

Mark: I'd rank it ahead of Hathaway due to the brilliance of Jon Hamm's John Ham. If I'm Warner Brothers, I'm having Brandon Routh killed and signing Hamm up as Superman, like, yesterday.

Kyle: Yeah...he should really be in absolutely everything.

CNN headline "Ted Stevens denies Conviction"...awesome. I literally heard him say he wasn't convicted.

Mark: It's probably not good form to just come out and say "You can still vote for me, Alaska! Bush will pardon me anyway!"

Kyle: lol, true.

Mark: But, anyway, are you ready for some football?!?!?!.....chat.

Kyle: Here's a schedule grid if you want to see who is playing who down the stretch.

Mark: Sweet, thanks. That's odd, Buffalo didn't play a division game before last week?

Kyle: Yeah...really strange schedule for them.

Mark: Okay, well, for readers who aren't aware, I'm a Green Bay fan and Kyle is a Detroit fan. So let's all just pause and bow our heads in a moment of mournful respect for Kyle's sanity right now.

Kyle: lol...openly antagonistic right off the bat, eh? I was going to mention how much better you are at picking games than I am, but now I won't. No, wait, that's mean.

Mark: Not to brag, but I am in the top three in all three of my NFL pick'em leagues. The bragging rights are somewhat negated by the nerdy fact that I'm in three NFL pick'em leagues, but I digress.

Kyle: Well, you're 61-55 in our league (6 over .500), while I'm 52-64 (12 under).

Mark: Eat it, Chris Schultz! Actually, I was watching Sportscentre this morning....apparently Schultz is something like 21-10 on the year thus far (though, obviously, with the caveat that he only picks four games a week). Jimmy Johnson, somewhat hilariously, is about 10-20 on the FOX pregame show picks.

Kyle: I think Schultz started out like 10-2 or something....so he's trailed off, but, yeah, it kind of cheapens in when you cherry-pick four games. He picks against the spread though, right? JJ picks 'em straight up, which makes it even worse.

Mark: Jimmy falls victim to the same thought process that plagues my dad in our family pool....he picks the team that is the better team, which never works in the crazy NFL. Especially this year. Oh, I'm also winning my family pool, so that's four top-threes. *pumps fist*

Kyle: There is some sort of time-tested theory (which TMQ always go on) about how picking the team with better record (or, if they're tied, the home team) should make you right about 65% of the time. How about Misha, who went against what he thought was right last week...and ended up 2-12. I think he should be celebrating.

Mark: He tried the George Costanza 'do the opposite of my instincts' thing, eh? Well, hey, it's really like being 12-2.

Kyle: Exactly.

Mark: Honestly, if you took a simple three-team Proline card picking the three biggest spread underdogs of the week, you'd win more often than not.

Kyle: It's true. You'd be killing if you bet the money line on every underdog this year. Are you willing to bankroll me? We could split the profits 90-10! (I get 90).

Mark: Can I bankroll you in Bre-X stock?

Mark: Well, anyway, given that this is technically supposed to be an NFL midseason recap, we should probably discuss football at some point here.

Kyle: Fair enough.

Mark: Let's start with....who's your NFL MVP after eight games?

Kyle: Oh, jesus! Is this not the strangest year for the NFL MVP?

Mark: It'll be hard to top the year when the kicker won ('82?), but yeah, it's a real crapshoot.

Kyle: That's worthy of its own book...or at least a 14,000 word Gary Smith article in SI. I'm going to throw some names out: Jason Campbell. Jake Delhomme. Brian Westbrook. Big Ben.

Mark: Yikes

Kyle: Stop me when you think I've named someone deserving.

Mark: If a Redskin gets it, I think it would be Portis (#1 fantasy player on Yahoo!) over Campbell just for seniority. I'll mention Drew Brees under the A-Rod Memorial 'His Team Kinda Stinks But His Numbers Are Great' clause

Kyle: Yeah, but, as you say, the Saints are trash. Andre Johnson is putting up monster numbers right now...but his team is 3-4. Could we have a Paul Hornung wins the Heisman for a 3-9 Notre Dame team situation this year? Doubtful.

Kyle: Trent Edwards?...Sorry, my computer just exploded.

Mark: Trent Edwards, ye gods. Ras-Trent himself. First MVP for a Toronto team since George Bell!

Kyle: You leave 1987 the hell out of this conversation! A goddamn travesty that was.

Mark: After the Jays collapsed down the stretch, tossing them an MVP was the least the writers could do.

Kyle: I just know that the five guys you would think would be in the mix -- Manning, Brady, LT, AP, and, I dunno, say Moss -- really aren't in the conversation (right now...LT and AP could make a run).

The guy that knocked out Brady?


Mark: Actually, you could make a good postmodern argument for Brady. Isn't he 'most valuable' based on the fact that after his injury, everyone acted like JFK had been shot?

Kyle: So Bernard Pollard is Oswald?

Mark: Which makes Herman Edwards into Jack Ruby, as he is shooting the entire KC organization right now.

Kyle: Don't think Oswald gave a sound bite even close to this one, though: "It was really an accident, I can't change what happened. I can't do anything but pray for him and hope he has a speedy recovery." I'm too afraid to say anything...

Mark: Poor Pollard. He sounds like Goodell had a gun pointed at his head

Kyle: Nice shot at Herm. I missed that.

Mark: Now, not to sound like a homer, but....Aaron Rodgers? He's got a winning team, he's putting up good to very good numbers, and theoretically should only get better as he gets more comfortable

Kyle: I thought of him...and it's not unreasonable of you to put him in the running. My concern is that he's going to get hurt again.

What if Romo comes back and plays lights out? Could it be given to someone who only played 75% of his team's games?

Mark: If that coincides with a Dallas resurgence, that could very well happen. Dark horse pick that would never happen, but could arguably deserve it: Joey Porter.

Kyle: ...boy, that came out of nowhere. If there were ever a year for a defensive player to win it, this might be it.....or Kerry Collins....at which point they'd immediately discontinue the award.

Mark: So far the NFL MVP is the same as this year's AL MVP.....a lot of maybes but no clear-cut #1. Rookie of the Year, however, seems a lot more straight-forward.

Kyle: Agreed. Joe Flacco. Next?

Mark: lol, I'm giving my Ravens-loving brother so much flack over Flacco (pun intended). I've already started the "next year, try drafting a D-1 QB" taunts.

Kyle: Shame that Felix Jones got hurt (he won the NFL Rookie of the Week three times in his first five weeks). This is doubly impressive when you realize that Wade Phillips will only let him touch the ball five times a game (GOD!). Anyway, the actual ROY: Chris Johnson, I assume?

Mark: Hmm, I was actually going to go with Matt Ryan or Matt Forte over Chris Johnson, but if the Titans keep rolling, he might well take it.

Wade Phillips.....boy, I dunno. If there was ever an NFL coach to suffer the 'playoff contender fires coach ridiculously late in the season' strategy like the Brewers or Devils used, it'll be Phillips.

Kyle: I actually kind of like him (on Hard Knocks he seemed like a really good guy)...and I'm really not sure how much of this we can pin on him (freakish numbers of injuries), but there's no denying that, even before Romo went down, there was something wrong with that team. I can't see him getting fired during the year, but, if he did, Jason Garrett would step in and do a terrific job. I have no doubt about that.

Ryan...possibly. Forte, too...though hasn't he fallen off a bit? I think Johnson ends up taking it.

Mark: The Phillips-Jerry Jones spoofs on Kissing Suzy Kolber are no doubt very close to actually happens every week. As for ROY, when in doubt, go with the rookie that was picked higher. Ryan is the leader in the clubhouse right now.

Kyle: Between Week 10 and Week 16, the Falcons play: NO, DEN, CAR, @SD, @NO, TB, @MIN. I think they'll be exposed then.

And I'll point out that, in picking 18th, the Ravens passed on Jones, Forte, and DeSean Jackson to reach for Flacco.


Mark: Glorious. If only they had an offensive genius like Brian Billick coaching the team

Kyle: lol, I actually kind of miss Billick--never thought I'd say that.

Mark: He's a good colour analyst, I heard one of his games a couple of weeks back and was thinking, "Wow, this guy is making some good comments." Then they cut to the booth and it was Billick. I felt so dirty. It was like hearing a good tune on the radio and then hearing the DJ reveal it to be the new Fergie single or something.

Kyle: Nice analogy. Despite having Sunday Ticket, I never seem to catch a game he's doing. I think I need to go to Awful Announcing and print off the booth lineups...like some sort of psycho.

Mark: He usually gets the lower-caliber games, so at least you can catch him on a Lions game and kill two birds with one stone!

Kyle: Yay! [bangs head against table]

Mark: This seems as good a time as any to get into this Kyle-suggested talking point......'who has the better chance of going 0-16, Detroit or Cincy?'

Kyle: Both, I'll note, are 5000-to-1 longshots to win the Super Bowl.

Aside: this is amazing...Peter Frampton in on CNN (oh, as you can probably tell, I only watch CNN when I'm home during the day--this is unlikely to continue past January 20, 2009) complaining that people keep stealing his Obama sign from his lawn. Life imitating art! Just replace "giant inflatable pig" with "lawn sign."

Mark: It's official, CNN has run out of things to talk about with this election

Kyle: Agreed. I really need to get a life. I almost twittered Rick Sanchez yesterday.

Mark: That sounds dirty.

Kyle: OK...Cincy has: JAX, PHI, @PIT, BAL, @IND, WAS, @CLE, KC. Detroit has: @CHI, JAX, @CAR, TB, TEN, MIN, @IND, NO, @GB. So...both are in real trouble. I'd say neither team goes winless (I know, really out on a limb), but that the Lions lock in the #1 pick (which they will use on the best receiver available) with a 2-14 record to Cincy's 3-13.

Mark: Cincy's best chance for a win has to be the KC game. Maybe even the Browns game the week prior. As for the Lions, man, that's rough. I could see them winning the Minnesota game in one of the Vikings' classic "we're awful" games, but otherwise, there is a legit chance they could reverse-run the table.

Kyle: Reverse-run, I like that. They might go 1-15, it's true. But they could (conceivably) beat the Bears, Vikings (I think that's the Thanksgiving game), or Saints. Cincy has to beat JAX or BAL, or they may roll into Cleveland 0-14.

Mark: I don't think the Lions are beating Chicago in Chicago, and the Saints will still presumably be hunting for a playoff spot, so they don't be letting up. Nope, I think it's just the Vikings game as their chance to break the streak.

Kyle: They don't play each other, so do you think that Goodell should jump in right now and say "if you both end up 0-16, there's a #1 pick playoff the night before the SB"? Or maybe a five-minute halftime game (like with Timbit Hockey kids) before Springsteen goes on-stage?

Mark: I'd pay to see that. In fact, were it not for KC's inexplicable win over Denver, that Bengals-Chiefs tilt in Week 17 could've been the real 0-fer Bowl

Kyle: I insist you make a WWE reference here.

Mark: It would be like Barry Horowitz facing Iron Mike Sharpe in the match before the main event at Wrestlemania.

Kyle: I knew you'd come through for me.

Mark: TJ Houshmandzadeh's "we'll win a game" guarantee....lamest guarantee in sports history?

Kyle: Yes. But at least he's backing it up with a(n insane) promise: walking 27 miles to the NFL studios. Guarantees have been so cheapened that, years ago, I suggested that they should only be prefaced with "we'll win this game or you can kill me." Now THAT'S pressure.

Mark: 27 miles isn't even that far to walk. It's easily doable for a pro athlete. TJ should've bet that unless Cincy wins, he would also have to change his last name to Ocho Cinco

Kyle: I think the wrinkle is that it's 27 highway miles. No clue how he'd manage that. It'd be like [insert name of semi-popular CFL star here] walking alongside the 401 (i.e. very strange).

Mark: Given the budgets of CFL teams, I thought that was how the Tiger-Cats got to Toronto for games.

Fun Wikipedia fact: the match before the Hulk Hogan/Sid Vicious main event at Wrestlemania 8 was actually close to Horowitz-Sharpe. It was a 71-second bout between Owen Hart (who at that point was barely above jobber level) against Skinner (whose gimmick was an evil alligator hunter).

Kyle: 71 seconds? Why would they even do that?

Mark: It's really no fun mocking your Lions fandom. I mean, there's just no fun in it.If nothing else, at least your baseball team has a chance at making the playoffs sometime in the next decade. Sigh. Damn Blue Jays.

Kyle: Like I've said, some lean years ahead for Michigan sports. I may need to start following college hockey.

Mark: You know who's suffering the most with this dual Bengals-Lions mediocrity? My cat, Bailey. Of his four favourite teams, two have yet to win a game. Poor Bailey.

Kyle: Wait..your cat has favorite teams?

Mark: Yeah, the Lions, Bengals, Jaguars and Panthers

Kyle: Oh, I get it...1 out of 4 ain't bad.

Mark: I dunno what would happen if, say, Carolina and JAX played in a Super Bowl. He'd be on the equivalent of a catnip high for that entire game.

Kyle: And the NFL would probably lobby to have the cat demographic counted, since no one else would watch that match-up.

Mark: Bailey's teams' mediocrity really hurts him in our family football pool. He's yet to win a week.

Kyle: That's disappointing. Even Misha has won a week in our pool. (note: not true)

Mark: Our family pool is just straight wins-losses, so Bailey has the easier task. Be sure to mention to Misha that we're openly comparing his performance to that of an animal.

Kyle: You can count on it!

Mark: Okay, so, biggest surprise of the NFL season?

Kyle: Hmmm...like fantasy stuff...or real teams?

Mark: Teams, players.....we can cover fantasy in our next segment, 'Kyle and Mark Bitch About Their Fantasy Teams'

Kyle: Hmmm....I suppose the implosion of the regular AFC stalwarts. San Diego and Indy have looked like dogshit for most of the season. The New England thing is a bit more explicable...though they're hanging around (but are they not the ugliest 5-2 team you've ever seen?)

Also: the whole Dallas thing has been frightening, but I'll save that until the fantasy section, since I have a team in my Osgoode league that is comprised entirely of Cowboys.

Mark: SD did lose Merriman, so they've had injury woes too. Plus I can't help but think that LT's "toe" injury is worse than they're letting on. Re: ugliest 5-2 team. The Steelers raise their hands.

Kyle: I still like them, but yeah.

Mark: I agree with the Colts/Patriots/Chargers downfall as the biggest surprise, since all three going down (apparently) was unexpected to say the least. The funny thing is, the Pats and Chargers could still easily win their divisions

Kyle: I know. Very weird. I'll throw Tennessee into the mix for most surprising, too. I don't think anyone anticipated them being 7-0--largely because we assumed Vince Young would be the starting QB.

Mark: They're a paper 7-0 given that though they're unbeaten, I don't think anyone thinks they'll be a Super Bowl or anything. Though they're solid, don't make many mistakes....reminds me of Tampa's Super Bowl team.

Also, not really a 'surprise' per se, but more like 'relief'.....Aaron Rodgers. I am so, so, glad that he looks like a good quarterback....presuming he doesn't turn into Derek Anderson in the last three games

Kyle: Yeah, I'm happy for him. Just an awful situation for him all around.

Mark: Most underrated storyline of the year: Brett Favre's gradual heel turn I mean, calling the Lions to give advice on how to play GB?! Seriously?

Kyle: Least surprising: Peter King being unwilling to criticize Favre. Just such a dumb move by Favre...even if he (maybe) didn't give away any secrets.

Mark: I don't even read PK anymore. He rarely adds anything truly noteworthy anymore. His column is slowly morphing from "breaking news" to "here's what I think about news that other people broke"

Kyle: But what about his feature where he compares a current star to a star at the same position from a totally different era? It's riveting! I especially like the bits about QBs before the forward pass was legal...

Mark: King was a lot better when he wrote under the name "Dr. Z" [/Misha]

Kyle: I suppose my most underrated thing just happened: shouldn't more be made about Mike Singletary delivering his halftime pep talk with his pants around his ankles? This is how you win over your players?

Mark: Wait, what?

Kyle: Yeah, I saw it on PTI yesterday. At halftime of the Seattle game, he mooned his team in the locker room and then, inexplicably, kept his pants down while berating them. I mean, I didn't think it was possible to make Mike Nolan look competent, but here we are.

Mark: That's amazing. The Singletary era is already off to a great start. So the 49ers have gone from 'coach dressed to the nines' to 'pantsless coach.' Biggest dropoff in NFL history

Kyle: Yup, although the suits were made by Reebok. Man, at least Lions' coaches have the decency to be naked in their own car...drunkenly ordering driving-thru.

Mark: Ok, we've put it off long enough.....commence bitching about your fantasy team.

Kyle: Sigh....Romo (whom I reached for in the first round) getting hurt had so many adverse consequences, since I have Crayton (who wasn't exactly setting the world on fire when Romo was healthy) and Witten (Tony's BFF to the point where Witten went with Romo and Jessica Simpson on that romantic getaway last year...even though I later found out that Witten is actually married.)

That and the fact that McFadden is totally shitting the bed for me. I find it completely perverse that Miami is running the Wildcat formation (that McFadden put on the map when he went to Arkansas) simply because they now have the old Arkansas Offensive Coordinator, while McFadden--who is playing with even less talented "skilled" position players--is languishing in a stale Oakland offense...or not playing at all. I have many more complaints, but, like golf horror stories, I think there are diminishing returns after two. You?


Mark: My fantasy teams are the inverse of my pick'em sets. My one team (the Cracker Factory) is 3-5, though with a two-game win streak since acquiring LenDale White for Wes Welker straight-up. My gamble on Rudi Johnson was something of a killer for that team.

My other team (Why So Jerious?) [Note from Kyle: I missed this the first time, but, to borrow a line from Boogie Nights: "those are great names!!"] is a desultory 1-7, solely because every single damn week, I leave a big performance on the bench. Check this out: if I had played my 'ideal lineup' every week, I'd be 7-1.

Kyle: Yikes! I'm 4-4 (cash league), 2-5, and 4-3, so not much to brag about either. Though, because New Orleans has a bye, I'm forced to start Frerotte this Sunday in that third league. If I win that, I'll never shut up about it.

Mark: Witten is entering into the worse possible phase of a fantasy season, the 'hurt but is still playing, probably poorly' status.

Kyle: Yeah, has long does it take to recover from a broken rib? A while, I think. Much as it pains me (and yes, in a discussion involving a real player's real broken rib, I'm referring to my own fantasy-related pain--what a tool), he really shouldn't play...then he can come back when Romo returns. Lovers re-united!

Mark: Conan's gotten some good mileage the last two nights out of the fact that Jessica Simpson's latest movie is a box office hit in Russia, and (true quote from the studio) "won't be released anywhere English is the first language."

Kyle: I saw that on--cringe--Chelsea Lately (aka, the worst late-night show ever...and I'm including Magic and Chevy Chase in the mix). That's...peculiar. I'm confused...did she film it in Russia? Wouldn't her being in Russia be reported on TMZ? I think it was filmed in the U.S...just not in English.

Mark: I'd presume the whole thing is dubbed. Otherwise, they could just release it as "Jessica Simpson Tries To Learn Russian," which is comedy gold in its own right.

Kyle: The whole thing is confounding...especially the fact that (as I've just discovered) the budget for the film was $30 million. And Steve Guttenberg is in it. And it's directed by the guy that did "My Father the Hero." Oh, my!

Mark: Poor Guttenberg. The Stonecutters gave up on him a long time ago.

Kyle: Speaking of things that are awful: the Fantasy Bed-Shitters of 2008 (this is just from the Yahoo! preseason Top 50): Brady (for obvious reasons), Addai, Larry Johnson, Ryan Grant, Maroney, McGahee, Willie Parker, Colston, McFadden, Ocho Cinco, Carson Palmer, and Torry Holt.

Mark: The truly sad thing is, of that group, very few even have a chance for a rebound

Kyle: True. Though I don't see why Grant is playing so poorly. He's healthy, isn't he?

Mark: He's been a little banged-up with a hammy injury, but honestly, I think it's largely because he's not that great. GB's running game is a big concern for me

Kyle: Well now I'm worried. Should we do playoff picks?

Mark: First, let's recap our preseason picks for comedy.

Kyle: lol...technically, I didn't make any for that very reason (derision), but I thought a Dallas-NE Super Bowl was likely.

Mark: It's still not out of the realm of possibility. Certainly yours is more likely than my Super Bowl prediction of......New England over Seattle.

Kyle: Ouch, really? The 2005 Seahawks?

Mark: I went 1. Pats, 2. San Diego, 3. Indy, 4. Pittsburgh with Jax and (the winless) Bengals as wild cards. That's right, the Bengals.

NFC was 1. Dallas, 2. Seattle, 3. GB, 4. Saints, with NYG and Philly as the wild cards

Kyle: Hmmm...well, you're probably right about three teams from the NFC East making the playoffs.

Mark: Yay to small consolation!

Kyle: They're not outrageous picks. Still not sure what's wrong with Jacksonville.

Mark: Now there's a team that probably needs a coaching change to get them over the hump akin to Gruden replacing Dungy in T-bay.

Kyle: Could be. How about Cowher, in a Favre-esque heel turn, taking the job next year?

Mark: Ooh, that would make a lot of sense. Cowher is going to break the bank....between Jax, Cincy, Detroit, Cleveland, KC, Minnesota, (maybe San Diego, Dallas or even Indy), he has lots of options

Kyle: Not enough money in the world for BC to take the Lions job...they'd probably have to give him his own country or something...

Mark: But he'd probably get a free Ford out of the deal! Fully loaded!

Kyle: sweeeeeet

Mark: William Clay Ford trying to entice Cowher would look a lot like Lorne Michaels offering the Beatles $3000 to reunite on SNL.

Kyle: "You wanna give Ringo less? That's fine..."

Mark: Two best aspects of that skit...

1. When George Harrison was musical guest a few months later and tried to claim a share of the money.

2. Lennon and McCartney were actually hanging out that night watching the show and wanted to come down to the studio to make a last-minute cameo. The writers were hastily coming up with a way to get them out of actually playing (I think the idea was 'oh, you brought your own gear? You can only use union-approved guitars'), but the two Beatles didn't make it downtown in time.

Kyle: Wow...never heard of either of those things. Cool. I really need to get one of those behind the scenes SNL books (maybe the oral history?).

Mark: That book is amazing, the one by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller.

Kyle: ok...it's going on my Christmas list.

Mark: I read it once every year, like clockwork. So what are your playoff picks right now?

Kyle: AFC division winners: Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, San Diego. Wild Card: Indy, NE

NFC division winners: Giants, GB, Carolina, Arizona (yikes). WC: Washington, Dallas.


Mark: Wow, I agree entirely. Bears and/or Tampa might sneak into the NFC given how the East will keep beating up on each other

Kyle: True. I haven't given up on Denver either...I just think SD passes them.

Mark: Pop quiz, worst division: NFC West or AFC West?

Kyle: Tough one. NFC, I say, since the AFC West has two competent teams. You?

Mark: Hard to say. Chargers are the best team in either division, but then again, the Chiefs and maybe Oakland are the worst two teams of the eight

Kyle: Sounds about right.

Mark: That's all of our prescribed talking points. Got anything else to add in?

Kyle: I don't think so....except that I think that MNF this week may be a SB preview.

Mark: Oh, that's another thing, this MNF is of vital importance. Apparently the Redskins' result the week prior to the election has predicted every outcome since the 1940's. If the Skins win, the incumbent party wins. If the Skins lose, the challenging party wins. In summation, go Steelers.

Kyle: Jesus...forgot about that...they referenced it on Mad Men last season. Go Steelers indeed. Yes we can! [Note: as he so often does, John Kerry ruined this theory in 2004, losing when the Skins loss dictated he would win. Still, it's 17 for 18 dating back to 1936, an impressive 94.4%, which is 14 points better than even the trusted Dow Jones theory (Dow up in election year? GOP win. Dow down? Dems win.)]

Mark: And let's not forget the other possible SB preview, Tennessee vs. Green Bay. Packers are winning, not a doubt in my mind. If that game isn't on basic cable, I will flip my lid.

Kyle: Never underestimate the stupidity of network execs....but it really should be on.

Mark: I worry since the Buffalo game is on at 1, so that'll be the CBS game and probably CityTV as well. FOX's highlight game is Dallas/New York at 4, so presumably the Fox affiliate won't have it at 1 PM....I'm worried.

Kyle: In that case, you can call me for updates...or just to scream. One last thing: Obama, over or under 350 electoral votes?

Mark: Under, but it'll still be a rout. Prediction of Bruce's four songs during the SB halftime?

Kyle: I'll take the over. Does the Boss have a new album coming out?

Mark: Not that I know of.

Kyle: Hmmm...Born to Run, Glory Days, Hungry Heart (as a metaphor...not because it's a great song), and...screw it, I say he leaves Born in the USA in the bag and busts out Dancing in the Dark.

Mark: Good call on Glory Days, that's a really good choice. Also, agreed on Born in the USA, though the novelty of that being misconstrued as a patriotic anthem never fails to amuse me. I'll vote for Born to Run, Dancing in the Dark, Rising and, dark horse, No Surrender. Though if they came out and just did a 10-minute Rosalita, that would be incredible

Kyle: Yeah, I almost said the Rising. No Surrender, eh? Hmmm. You know what would be great, if he pulled Blinded by the Light out of nowhere. His version is wildly underrated.

Mark: People would be like, "Why is Bruce doing a cover of Blinding By The Light?"

Kyle: Sadly, this is true. I think BtR and GD are both locks.

Mark: Rising is Bruce's Beautiful Day, it'll be there. Yes or no: Pearl Jam will one day be the halftime act

Kyle: Yes....but it might be a reunion tour thing.

Mark: I'm kind of doubtful. They're more baseball and basketball fans, for one. But really, now with Bruce doing it, PJ are the only one left of my favourite bands who could conceivably do the halftime show. (I'm not holding out for the White Stripes or Talking Heads)

Kyle: I think they should let Prince do it every other year. He was great.

Mark: Truth. What more could you ask from a halftime show than a giant guitar phallus?

Kyle: I'm certainly stumped.

Mark: Giant ass-shaped bass guitar in a tribute to Mike Singletary?

Kyle: lol--nailed it. Alright, I need to start packing up for the weekend...as always: a pleasure.

Mark: The pleasure is all mine.