Monday, November 30, 2009

Prince + Vikings = Der Komedy

Hey everyone, Prince was at the Vikings game yesterday! He's not weird! He likes football just like a regular person!

....or, he just hung around a private box looking like a vampire. Oh Prince, why must everything about you be so strange? I choose to believe he just stood in that position for the entire game.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The 10 Roughest MMA Knockouts (And UFC 107 Picks)

I haven't done one of these UFC pick posts in a while, so I'll make up for it by posting this link to a YouTube video of some of MMA's most vicious knockouts. For my money, Evans-Liddell should've been number one. Liddell looked like he was stone dead. Also, I'm kinda surprised the famous Rich Franklin/Nate Quarry 'timberrrrr' knockout didn't make the cut. Watch it quick before the UFC inevitable pulls the footage!

Onto the picks! And for god's sake, given the incredible rash of injuries befalling UFC fighters, let's hope everyone can stay healthy between now and Saturday.

* Jon Fitch vs. Mike Pierce. Fitch was originally supposed to fight Ricardo Almeida, who got injured. Then he was supposed to fight Thiago Alves, who got injured. So now in comes Mike 'Bronze Medal' Pierce, who has just one UFC fight under his belt and now must face the consensus #2 welterweight in the world. In short, I hope Pierce has a good dental plan. I had a high school teacher named Mike Pearse whose last name was pronounced the same as 'Pierce.' My pal Matt always inexplicably hated Mr. Pearse, so maybe Matt can get work out some of his issues by seeing Pierce get demolished on Saturday. Fitch, TKO, second round.

* Paul Buentello vs. Stefan Struve. Buentello will hold a special place in my heart for main-eventing the first UFC pay-per-view I ever watched. I tagged along with some friends to London's Oar House to watch UFC 55, headlined by the Buentello-Arlovski fight for the heavyweight title. My friends' hype and the UFC promo package had me all revved up for what was going to be a classic tilt....and then Arlovski knocked Buentello out in 15 seconds. Hmmm. That humiliating loss aside, Buentello is a pretty solid fighter and will be in tough against the gargantuan Stefan Struve, a near seven-footer whose only UFC loss is to Junior Dos Santos. In spite of his size, Struve is actually something of a submission specialist, which perhaps isn't so unusual given that this gangly motherfucker can put you into a triangle from basically any position on the ground. Since Buentello has a history of submission defeats, I'll actually pick Struve to pull the minor upset. Struve, submission, second round.

* Frank Mir vs. Cheick Kongo. This is MMA's version of a zero-sum game. Either Mir will instantly take down Kongo and submit him (since Kongo's ground game is non-existent), or Kongo will pound Mir's face into hamburger (since Mir's striking abilities are non-existent against anyone who isn't suffered from a severe staph infection). After four years, could Kongo possibly have learned some damn takedown defense? After knocking out a weakened Minotauro Nogueira, does Mir actually think he possesses stand-up skills? If Mir even thinks for a moment he can compete with Kongo standing, then this fight will turn into a remake of 'Titanic, with Mir playing the boat and Kongo's fists playing the iceberg. Dana White can play Billy Zane's role. Jon Fitch can play Victor Garber's architect character. This analogy is falling apart. Anyway, yes, in fact I do think Mir is dumb enough to stand and trade long enough for Kongo to bash him. Kongo, knockout, first round.

* Kenny Florian vs. Clay Guida. This one has fight of the night written all over it. You've got arguably the second-best lightweight in the UFC (Florian) coming off of a decisive loss in a title match, and he's facing perhaps the highest-energy fighter. I think Florian don't do what Diego Sanchez did and just pound away at Guida to test his toughness. Instead, Florian might even let Guida take him down since Guida (for all of his energy and hard work) rarely does a lot of actual damage to opponents when he's controlling them. Basically, Guida is the most exciting lay-and-pray fighter imaginable. I can see Florian using this to his advantage and trying to lock Guida up in a submission when they're on the ground. The fight might unfold quite a bit like the Guida-Roger Huerta fight, which was only one of the best matches of 2007. I expect nothing less from this matchup. Florian, submission, third round.

* BJ Penn vs. Diego Sanchez. Gray Maynard, Frank Edgar and maybe Tyson Griffin are next in line for whomever the lightweight champion is after Saturday, but honestly, Sanchez might be the last guy left in the division who can give BJ a real challenge. If Penn beats Diego, then we might see the re-emergence of Bored BJ Penn, who makes noise about moving back up to welterweight given the lack of challenge in his natural division. I'd like to see Penn actually do it and fully clean out the LWs, but he might have a point. The only thing in his way is Sanchez, who it should be noted is far from just a stepping stone. Diego's only losses came to Fitch (in a split decision at welterweight) and a decision loss to Josh Koscheck when he was dealing with a staph infection and a Hepatitis C scare. Penn will have to figure out a way to do what no other fighter has done (finish Sanchez), since if this one goes into the fourth or fifth round, Penn will be at a decided cardio disadvantage. Diego's cardio is second to none, whereas BJ still hasn't definitively answered the question of if he trains hard enough to go five rounds. He did make it into the fourth round to beat Florian in his last fight, but that came just a few months after quitting rather than go into a fifth round against Georges St. Pierre. Then again, GSP was giving him the beating of a lifetime, so I can see why he wanted to give it up. Anyway, Diego seems to have the tools to outlast, if not actually finish, Penn, but until another lightweight proves that he can do it, I just can't pick against the undisputed #1 LW in the world. Penn, TKO, third round.

* Matt Wiman over Shane Nelson, decision.
* Ricardo Funch over Johny Hendricks, TKO, first round.
* TJ Grant over Kevin Burns, submission, third round.
* Rousimar Palhares over Lucio Linhares, submission, first round.
* Edgar Garcia over DaMarques Johnson, TKO, second round.
* Wilson Gouveia over Alan Belcher, decision.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Nine Most Disappointing Movies Of 2009

We're nearing the end of the decade, which means that media outlets everywhere will soon be inundating us with 'best of the 2000s' lists for literally everything, including movies. The Telegraph has already gotten in on the act, as has the Times, in spite of the fact that the decade is technically still going. (I guess they have low hopes for 'Avatar'...more on this later.) Of these two, the Times wins the prize for going the furthest down the list before including a truly horrible movie. The Times tempts fate by including some middling stuff like Casino Royale, Last King of Scotland and The Queen in their top ten, but none of those are truly capital-H Horrible like the Telegraph's #9 selection, "The Passion Of The Christ." The Toronto Star copped out by just listing their ten most 'important' movies of the decade, hiding behind that debatable term in spite of the fact that you can't really judge what a decade's most important movies were until years down the line. Also, I'm pretty sure that future generations won't be getting all hot and bothered over Passion Of The Christ or Donnie Darko.

So, with these lists in mind, I'm sure you're all expecting me to chime in with my own best-of-the-Aughts list. Nuh uh. Not yet. It will take time, preparation and gallons of caffeinated beverages. But in the meantime, here are nine pieces of crap that certainly won't make the cut.

A word on terminology...this is not a list of the worst films of the year, aside from a couple of instances. These are merely the most disappointing, a.k.a. the movies I went into expecting to enjoy, but walked out bitterly unentertained. Something like "Transformers 2" may have stunk, but since I fully expected it to stink, it doesn't make this list. Somewhere, Michael Bay wipes sweat from his brow, relieved that his lowered-expectations ploy has worked yet again.

Onto the list!

(Wait, so the first part of this post had nothing to do with the second part? What poor planning. Feel free to nominate this for your "Most Disappointing Posts Of The Year" list.)

9. Avatar. Ok, so TECHNICALLY it isn't actually out yet. But given the hype and secrecy surrounding the project, and given the incredibly uninteresting trailer, I can already predict that I won't enjoy it. For all of the talk about Jim Cameron deploying cutting-edge new technology for the movie, it looks like the same blah stop-motion CGI/human hybrid stuff that has ruined Robert Zemeckis' career. The plot (human soldier gets involved in a war between Earth and an alien planet, begins to take the aliens' side) sounds generic as humanly possible. Though, technically, since my expectations are already so low going into it, should 'Avatar' be on this list at all? I was taking a wait-and-see attitude from the get-go anyway, so can I really consider this to be a proper entry on a 'disappointing films' list given that I sorta expected a disappointment? Ah, screw it, I just wanted a forum to bitch about this lame movie.

8. Terminator: Salvation. Another kind of borderline entry, given that nobody can really expect much from a movie directed by friggin' McG. But this was just a meandering, dull and overall listless film that basically kills the Terminator franchise dead in its tracks. It's not a good sign when the best (or, only) audience reaction comes from the CGI Arnold that pops up late in the movie to confront Christian "Phonin' It In" Bale.

7. 9. Not to be confused with 'Nine,' the Daniel Day-Lewis/Penelope Cruz/Every actress in Hollywood musical that's coming out in December. Or, not to be confused with 'Nein!,' the wacky German comedy starring Rutger Hauer as the headmaster of a school for naughty frauleins. Or "Nye'n," the movie about Marlee Matlin trying to pronounce the last name of Bill Nye the Science Guy. No, "9" was the allegedly visually-incredible animated movie about weird puppet robots trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. While I said that Avatar looks like it has the most generic possible plot, "9" might actually hold that current title. There is not an ounce of wit or originality in the entire script. The story is basically a poor man's version of Lord of the Rings, except lacking the homoerotic subtext between Frodo and Sam.

6. Cold Souls. It had a funny Charlie Kaufman-esque concept to it: Paul Giamatti (playing himself) discovers a clinic in New York that can temporarily remove your soul and replace it with someone else's. He tries the process to improve his acting and ends up involved with the Russian mob. While I generally enjoy films that plunk you down in strange realities and deal with everything with a straight face, this one is just way too slow-moving and dry even for me. The whole thing was a little 'cold.' BWA HA HA HA, je suis hilarious.

5. Funny People. Ok, another technical borderline entry I only enjoy about one out of every eight Adam Sandler movies. But hey, Judd Apatow, it's got to be good, right? Right? The basic problem with the film is that it asks you to buy into the inherent belief that Adam Sandler is a) funny and b) has a strong enough personality to inspire what is slightly-modified version of his own life. As it turns out, he's not and he doesn't. The movie is a good 30 minutes too long, relies on Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman for comic relief --- never a good idea --- and the entire romantic subplot with Leslie Mann was a complete waste of time. It's like Apatow wrote the movie and then suddenly realized he didn't give his wife a part. It's just an poor piece of work all around, easily Apatow's worst movie. It also ruined Eric Bana's big comeback year. For years, Bana held the title of 'Actor I Like The Most Whose Movies I Enjoy The Least.' After breaking it big in North America with Black Hawk Down, Bana was in nothing but garbage until this year, when he appeared in Star Trek and Time Traveler's Wife. 'Funny People' kept Bana from winning the triple crown and completing his comeback, but on the bright side, at least he got to play a walking stereotype that disgraced his Aussie heritage. Good times!

3.(tie) Year One
(tie) Couples Retreat. The two movies suffer from opposite problems that end up with the same result. 'Year One' throws non-stop jokes at the wall in the hope that some will stick, and an astonishingly tiny number of them actually do, 'Couples Retreat,' on the other hand, is the rare comedy that doesn't have any actual jokes. Remember when you watched the ads and didn't actually see anything funny? That wasn't a case of marketing withholding the best jokes for the film --- that was the best they had to work with. A yoga guy squatting in Jason Bateman's face is about as sophisticated as it gets here, folks. Big red flags went up for both films when numerous cast members appeared on Conan and talked about everything but the movie itself. That's never a good sign. Conan didn't even throw them a token, "So, I saw the movie at a screening the other night and enjoyed it." Methinks Conan felt it was prudent to just not say anything at all rather than note that he and Andy Richter spent the whole screening giving the flick the MST3000 treatment.

Just take a look at these cast lists of these two movies --- Jack Black, Michael Cera, Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Bateman, Faizon Love, Jean Reno, David Cross, McLovin, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Olivia Wilde, plus usually hilarious supporting staples like John Michael Higgins and Ken Jeong. With scripts by two 'Office' writers and Vaughn/Favreau, respectively, and direction from Harold Ramis and the kid who played Ralphie in 'A Christmas Story,' respectively. I like to love everyone (In Kristen Bell's case, literally) involved in both projects, and yet both movies ended up being terrible. Couples Retreat even stuck the whole female cast in bikinis and I still hated the movie, so if that's not a bad recommendation, I don't know what is. In a way, there's nothing worse than a disappointing comedy since you into them predisposed to laugh, and when that doesn't happen, it's double the letdown. It's like going to a Tony Jaa film and not seeing anyone's limbs broken.

2. Public Enemies. Now we get into the territory of 'movies that I didn't exactly dislike, but are still big disappointments given my sky-high expectations going into them.' Is it the film's fault for not living up to my possibly-inflated personal beliefs? Yes. Yes it is. Especially when said film is a Michael Mann picture about John Dillinger starring Johnny Depp. There is zero reason why this film shouldn't have been a five-star, knock-the-doors-off classic. PE gets a long way on style and it's wonderfully shot (don't worry Mann, I'm one of the few people that enjoys digital cinematography, you're not alone), but the story is pretty rote, none of the characters are well developed and you leave the theatre not really knowing or caring any more about John Dillinger than you did when you entered. I didn't mind Depp's performance, since I think his underplaying the role was deliberate given that the real Dillinger was something of a monosyllabic thug whose charisma stemmed from urban myth more than anything. But aside from Depp, the very talented cast is given nothing to do. Marion Cotillard is stuck with a limited girlfriend role, and Christian Bale (billed as the second lead and Dillinger's nemesis) is on-screen for maybe 20 minutes. Hell, I would've preferred to have seen Bale's role cut from the movie and had Billy Crudup's J. Edgar Hoover re-imagined as Dillinger's primary adversary. (Geez, between this film, Terminator, yelling at cinematographers and having everyone mock his Batman voice, this has been a rough year for Bale.) One bright side: the scene where Dillinger strolls through an FBI office and nobody recognizes him. That was a genuinely great scene that blew away everything in every other movie on this list combined. If the entire film had been made with that kind of flair, we would've had something. Basically, I went in expecting the next Bonnie & Clyde, and all I got was a second-rate White Heat.

1. Where The Wild Things Are. Like with the previous entry, I didn't hate WTWTA. If pressed, I'd even give it a borderline recommendation. The amount of imagination and creativity that went into bringing the children's book to life is admirable, and I'm glad to got to see Spike Jonze's take on the material rather than having the studio make a generic kiddie movie with some hack director like Chris Columbus. But there's no way to sugarcoat things --- big chunks of the film are dull with a capital D. WTWTA was a tough project from the get-go, since like many children's books, their brilliance lies in how the reader imagines the fantastical worlds described in the text. Even in an illustrated book like the original Maurice Sendak story, the illustrations are detailed but in a sparse way that lets little kids think up their own versions of how things will unfold. Actually putting a definitive version of these images on the big screen (and letting them be voiced by Tony Soprano and Bam Bam Funkhouser) unwittingly puts a cap on the imagination. Frankly, the Wild Things' dreary, weirdly post-apocalyptic landscape of a home is more than a bit of a downer. The kid who plays Max gives a very good performance and comes off as a very real 10-year-old, but even that's kind of a catch-22. Jonze cast a kid because he can realistically portray what 10-year-olds are like, but with the caveat that kids are never less interesting than when they're ten years old. Children are charming in their developing years and potentially fascinating when they're entering that gap from about 9 to 11, however, they're just kinda there.

Frankly, I blame the Arcade Fire for my disappointment with this film. The trailer looked great and was set to the tune of 'Wake Up,' which would make any trailer look five times better than it actually is. You stick that song on the 'Avatar' trailer and I'm probably singing that movie's praises. It should be noted that the actual WTWTA soundtrack, written by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, is fantastic and a great idea for a Christmas gift. For me. As a thank-you for posts like these that warn you away from bad movies.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The 500th Post

So, about a month ago, I noticed that I was coming up on 500 posts on this blog. My plan was to write a massive On Notice-style post that would try to incorporate every one of my tag labels into those eight topics. Ergo, the 500th post would serve as an example/summation of everything I've ever talked about on this blog.

Great idea, right? Except for one problem. As I took a closer look at my archives, I noticed that I had a few entries saved as drafts --- rough copies of posts that were different from the ones I originally published. So I deleted a few, then a few more, and suddenly I realized that Blogger was counting those rough copies as actual posts. So my overall total was now suddenly down into the 485 range and my On Notice anniversary post's worth of material would now all be outdated.

I decided to just break it up into smaller, individual items and you've seen some of those results over the last few weeks. But now, here we are again at the 500-point, and suddenly I have no plans for a big celebration. It's unfortunate. For the 400th post, I saved up the immortal story of how my friends and I spent nine months punching each other in the groin for the 400th post, but now we're at an even bigger anniversary and I've got nothing. NOTHING!

So, when in doubt, I'll do what I've so often done on this blog: fall back on other people's work. Enjoy some links! Happy anniversary, Polivision!

If you had to sit down and decide upon the coolest countries in the world, New Zealand would be a strong dark horse contender. Aside from the scenery, Flight Of The Conchords and the fact that my cousin's boyfriend is a Zealander, there's also the fact that they bust out quality commercials like this for their country's friggin' book council. Just amazing. What would the Canadian equivalent of this be? Some D-level Canadian celeb like Gordon Pinsent or the chick from the Hills Aftershow sitting in a library with a small circle of kids sitting around them, all saying 'Yayyy!' on cue with a generic "Reading Is Fun!" tagline? Man, New Zealand pwned us.

Baseball fans already know that is one of the greatest websites of all time, but I didn't realize that one could actually sponsor the individual player or team pages. Like any internet advertisement, my eyes just automatically glaze over them, which is why the ad business may slowly crumble over the next 15 years. Anyway, for just $10, you can put your own personal message on the page of any available player or team, which has led to some hilarious abuses over the years. My pal Dave sent me this list of the ten funniest sponsorships and it's pretty mint stuff. The one that killed me was the Len Koenecke entry at #8...that's hard to beat. If you want to make a joke sponsorship of your own, former Blue Jay Howie Clark's entry is still open, so you can immortalize him forever with " 'Haah! I've got it!' --- Alex Rodriguez" A-Rod's own page is already spoken for, sadly, so we'll have to put a stay on the centaur-related jokes....except for this artist's rendition.

Kinda wish I had found this in time for the Sesame Street tribute post I wrote a few weeks ago. My entry for Q was kind of week, whereas 'Q Is For Queen' would've been perfect.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Royal York Roadblocks

Is everyone familiar with Royal York Road in London, Ontario? Good. A disquieting change has taken place on the quiet suburban street just north of Oxford. Two large, grand-piano shaped portions of grassy curb have been extended into the road itself, one at the corner of Royal York and Hunt Club in front of the park, and the other at the intersection of Royal York and Manchester. These curbs jut out like Bill Cowher's jaw and literally take up the entire lane, forcing traffic to narrow into one lane for a span of about seven feet. I noticed these obstructions as I was driving home from the movies late last night, so there was no opposite traffic to have to negotiate, but man, that just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me. As I recall from my days as a professional wheelman (a.k.a. a pizza delivery boy), that street can get rather busy given its position as a connector to a large suburban neighbourhood. I'd imagine it's quite the annoyance to have to deal with during rush hour or something, when everyone is coming home and has to maneuver their cars past a seven-foot-long grassy blob that seems to be there for no obvious reason. Not to mention if a school bus is driving past.

The only possible logic I can apply to these obstructions is that they were put in by the community in an attempt to quiet traffic that might go speeding down the street late at night. If that's the case, then bollocks to that. If anything, the roadblocks will cause more of a hazard --- they're not exactly visible at night, and a careless driver might easily just plow his car right into one. At least those irritating speedbumps* you sometimes see in the suburbs are just bumps, not outright dangers to one's bumper.

Royal York Road, you've made a critical mistake. Only a fool would cut off lanes so abruptly and create such a needless hazard. This will be the keystone issue of my 2010 campaign for London Traffic Layer-Outer (or, whatever the hell the appropriate position is called). I can see my first campaign ad will be footage of cars being held up at the Royal York obstructions, while 'Frolic' by Michelini plays in the background. A big bold font will flash up on your screen: ARE UNNECESSARY TRAFFIC-DAMPENERS 'CURBING' YOUR ENTHUSIASM FOR DRIVING? Then cut to a scene of me setting fire to the grass on these curbs while a crowd of seniors, children and Bob "Marty Funkhouser/Super Dave Osborne" Einstein cheer wildly. Of course, I might end up being arrested for these fires and thus will be forced to conduct my campaign from jail, but I presume my inevitable election will help get me freed. Or, failing that, I'll just marry the mayor. That seems to be a 'get out of jail free' card in this town anyways. The mayor and I would make a great couple. We have a lot in common, since I'm also not in the slightest bit able to competently run a major city.

* = When the Westmount neighbourhood installed these speedbumps, my friend Matt protested by honking his horn every time he drove over one. Even late at night, when we were leaving my pal Andrew's at 1:30 AM or something. Keeping peace and quiet my ass. Matt, in other news, was the inspiration for Bowie's "Rebel Rebel."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ebert vs. Twilight

When I think about it, Roger Ebert has to be among my top influences as a writer. Those who just know him as a TV thumb guy are missing out on his fantastic career as a reviewer and film essayist for the Chicago Sun-Times. It's a sign of Ebert's quality that he can really bring a movie to life with his words because you can tell just how much this guy loves the cinema....and, as such, when this love is tarnished by a particularly crappy film, he pulls no punches.

Case in point, his review of the new Twilight movie. Ebert has been known to cut some genre movies some slack under the logic that he isn't their target audience, and thus he just judges them if they accomplish their goal of satisfying that audience. It's almost like a teacher who gives a student a D rather than a fail because he can at least see that the kid is trying hard. In this instance, however, it's clear that 'New Moon' is just too shitty to be given a pass. With 630 words, Ebert manages to point out everything that's wrong with both the movie and basically the entire 'Twilight' franchise itself. It's fantastic.

If you ever see that Ebert has given a movie one star or less, track down that review post-haste and get ready to laugh. The only thing better are his responses to fanboys/fangirls who send him angry e-mails bashing his taste when he dares to write a review saying that (gasp!) the movies starring their favourite characters are shite. His exchanges with Transformers fans upset at his pan of 'Transformers 2' is so amusing that it would even make a sullen teen vampire crack a smile.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Swept Away

A chimney sweep is coming by on Saturday, and I will pester this poor man to death with questions. Is he only a chimney sweep, or does he have other jobs? Does he enjoy being a chimney sweep? (If his answer is, "It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it," I will giggle uproariously and we'll be best buds for life.) Is he ever asked to speak in an 'orrible Cockney accent like Dick Van Dyke? Ok, I guess three questions isn't totally pestering, but that Van Dyke query will lead to a number of sub-queries. If you think about it, Van Dyke's role in 'Mary Poppins' might be the single greatest example of a film completely defining everything that general society knows about a specific job. The only other example I can think of off the top of my head is Norman Bates and taxidermy, but that was really more of a hobby than a proper job. Fortunately there have been more hoteliers than just Bates portrayed on the big screen, so a generation of prospective hotel/motel employees didn't discern that the best way to run an establishment is to kill your guests.

Back to Bert, Van Dyke's chimney sweep/one-man band/kite-selling character. You've got to believe that he and Mary Poppins knocked boots in the past. He seemed like an affable enough chap, and Mary was 'practically perfect in every way,' so Bert had to have at least made a pass at her. C'mon, mid-1960's Julie Andrews was well worth the effort. Presumably his pick-up line was to draw a chalk outline of a bed, which then morphed into a real bed, followed by Bert saying, "Eh? Wot about a bit 'a slap 'n tickle, love?" Reason #814 why I should do a podcast: with vocals, I could easily get five minutes of material out of Bert's Cockney pillow talk, but it unfortunately isn't as funny translated to print. Even as I'm writing this, I'm laughing at the thought of Bert trying to talk dirty in that absurd accent, topped off with him shouting 'SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!' as he climaxes.

(When tiny Scottish soccer team Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC upset Celtic in the Scottish Cup in 2000, the Sun's headline was "Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious!" This gets my vote as greatest newspaper headline of all time.)

Perhaps the reason that I remember the Bert character so well after all these years is that he, like I, seem to be eternally stuck in the Friend Zone. Ah, the Friend Zone. So unfortunate. Surely there must be a way that I can turn platonic friendship to my benefit; if not an actual Friends With Benefits scenario, then financial benefit. Maybe I could become a matchmaker? Gentlemen reading this post, I know a wide variety of single, attractive, charming women who are, just waiting for the right man to come along. Pass along your information and I will check my extensive matchmaking database (a.k.a. my Facebook friends list) to find the right woman for you. If no such woman exists because you're a douchebag and/or otherwise wretched person, then I will awkwardly ignore your plea to be set up and pretend this post never existed. For legal purposes, I should note that in no way am I promising sex with any of my female friends, since that would make me a pimp, which is illegal outside of the rap world. I wonder if Bert, amongst his many jobs, ever took up pimping? "Quit yer complainin', love. Me friend Mary says that a spoonful of sugar makes medicine go down, so surely a bit 'a sugar will make that go down easier too."

Yikes, that's just dirty. Dirty like....a chimney. Annnnnnnnnd THAT's what we call tying the post together, folks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sesame Street classic moments

With Sesame Street celebrating its 40th anniversary, it was only appropriate to pay tribute to this wonderful show by highlighting some of its most memorable sketches and moments. Since every episode is, as you know, brought to you by a letter and number, I've decided to break things up alphabetically and numerically. Enjoy!

A is for the Aliens. Yip yip yipyipyipyipyipyip....

B is for the Beetles. Not pictured: the skit where they were split up by Maria Ono. B is also for BRRRUUUUUUUUUCE and for 'bonus,' so here's an added Springsteen spoof as well. You could say I was born to add it.

C is for Cookie! That's good enough for me!

D is for Don Music. Like any good musician, Don Music is totally ready to dick over Kermit over the publishing rights. This is basically what happened between Axl and Slash.

E is for Ernestine, Ernie's little niece. Wait, so this means Ernie had a brother or sister? Was that plotline ever explored? E might also be for exorcism, since Ernestine was clearly speaking in tongues.

F is for Feist. The enthusiastic head-bop along with the chickens kills me.

G is for Guy Smiley, everybody's favourite game show host. As we learn here, it's not his real name --- I've got to believe that Jim Henson had a friend named Bernie Liederkrantz and wanted to include a little in-joke on the show, since the whole concept of Jewish-Americans changing their names to fit in with WASPy culture is a bit advanced even for Sesame Street. btw, the Count should've taken the cash prize. He would've had loads of fun counting up to one million dollar bills.


I is for 'I Love You.' Cutest thing in recorded human history? Quite possibly.

J is for Johnny Cash. He made quite a few appearances on Sesame Street, but this one is quite possibly the best since it's an actually an improvement on the original "Don't Take Your Guns To Town" song, which I've never been a big fan of. Also, there was a Lady Count who looked exactly like the real Count? Wow. That must've been one, ONE awkward wedding night. AH AH AH AH! Embedding is disabled on this clip, but here's the link.

K is for Kermit's news updates about nursery rhymes. These always killed me. I love Kermit's scrunched-up face of disgust and his bitching to his producer about his assignments. He's like Anderson Cooper.

L is for Lefty, the character who taught kids it was okay to buy things from shady guys in trenchcoats. Wait....

M is for Monologue, like the one delivered here by the great Patrick Stewart.

N is for Near And Far. Grover's cardio is awful.

O is for One, Two, Three Pigs! AH AH AH AH!

P is for Prairie Dawn. A long-forgotten character who inexplicably looked just like Shelley Long, she and Cookie Monster combined for tons of great skits. "You're always denying me!"

Q is for Quiet. Or, it's for Quite, as in 'Man, Kermit is being quite a dick to Elmo.' Geez, just let the kid help you describe what's loud and what's quiet. What's the big deal? Any clip with a patented Kermit scream is amazing.

R is for Robert De Niro. This clip is a great source of riboflavin! De Niro's Elmo laugh will haunt my nightmares.

S is for Snuffleupagus. Those are some quality reaction shots from the human cast.

T is for Telly, whose new shoes are sold to him by none other than Neil Patrick Harris. The girl muppet at the start of the skit even looks a bit like Alyson Hannigan. Maybe not the greatest skit, but hey, it's got NPH. That's enough to make it accept(wait for it)able.

U is for Unsettling, as in 'That giant anthromorphic U is really unsettling.' I remember seeing this skit as a kid but only just now realized that the guy is supposed to be a mountie. Paul Gross owes his whole acting career to this skit.

V is for Venice, the setting for arguably the best 'Monsterpiece Theatre' spoof of them all. Too bad Grover didn't call the Venetians on their obviously lame attempt to hide their anti-monsterism. "Anyway, me digress."

W is for Wonder, as in Stevie. One of the best live performances on any show, ever.

X is for X Marks The Spot. Sherlock Hemlock looks exactly like Cary Elwes' character in 'The Princess Bride.'

Y is for Y, Norah Jones' absentee friend.

Z is for ZZ Blues. What's up with the Count channeling Billy Crystal's old 'Fernando' character?

And now, the numbers. Since it would take a while to find more clips, we can take care of them in one fell swoop with....the Pinball Song!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Random Nonsense

I'm a week late to the party on this one, but if you happen to have not seen it in a million other places on the internet, here's Christopher Walken reciting the lyrics to 'Poker Face.' It. Is. Glorious.

Man, I'm usually on top of web memes like this one. Oh well....stay tuned for when I post videos of the Jingle Cats and Susan Boyle.


FInally listened to Kanye West's "Graduation" recently and the only problem with the record (if you can call it a real problem) is that the samples are so catchy they overwhelm Kanye's raps. Now, again, much like the guy in the PlayStation commercials with the hot girlfriend that thinks his game is a movie....this one goes into the 'not an issue' file. Obviously Kanye chose these samples because they were so catchy in the first place, but it's just strange after listening to a hip-hop record that I was really jonesing for some Daft Punk and Steely Dan.

Anyway, good album overall. This is probably the best group of singles that Kanye has gathered together on one disc, and of the other album tracks, 'The Glory' is a very nice underrated number. It's always nice to remember that Kanye West is actually a tremendously talented musician, as opposed to just some douchebag interrupter at awards show. Not to be confused with THE Interrupter.


We're getting closer and closer to the naming of the Canadian hockey team for the Olympics, so we're almost free of the comical sight of Steve Yzerman visiting various NHL arenas "scouting" the Team Canada prospects. Honestly, I think Stevie Y is just doing this for free meals in the press box --- he already has the entire scouting resources of the Detroit Red Wings at his disposal and, besides, it's not like he's trying to find any hidden gems here. He's basically picking the cream of nation's crop. Yzerman was at a Leafs-Lightning game last week allegedly "scouting" Vincent Lecavalier, and when Vinny opened the scoring, everyone was all "Oh, that's a big goal for Lecavalier, he really impressed Yzerman on that one." Yeah, I'm sure that goal against the friggin' Maple Leafs is what really convinced Yzerman that Lecavalier was a good hockey player. The 300 career goals and the Stanley Cup were nice, but putting one past Monster Gustavsson, that's the real breaking point.


I've already blogged about the bad-ass promotional poster for LOST's final season, but now here's an added detail. As reported at DarkUFO (arguably the top LOST blog around), someone at Popular Mechanics had the hieroglyphics inside the 'The Final Season' header translated by an expert. Apparently they mean 'Who Is The Guide?' or 'Who Is The Leader?' Interesting. I'm going to go out on a limb can say that the answer to neither question is Boone....though, wait, I guess he did guide Locke during that weird hallucinogenic dream where Locke was pushed shirtless through the Sydney Airport. So basically, my prediction is that Ian Somerhalder will show up in the finale and be revealed as the mastermind villain behind the entire series. What a twist! [/Robot Chicken's M. Night Shyamalan]


My roommate: "Hey, if the Blue Jays were in the World Series, would they still sing 'God Bless America' if they played games in Toronto?"
Me: "No way. We already have the 'OK Blue Jays' song."
MR: "That's true. That would be awesome. 'God Bless America' is all solemn and everything, and then up here it's just a lot of enthusiastic clapping and weak aerobics."
Me: "I guess it's a moot point since the Jays won't make the World Series again in our lifetimes."
MR: "True."

Then we both wept for 20 minutes.


And, since self-deprecation has been part of this blog since day one, I'll leave on one of my most idiotic moments. Back in high school, I had a friend named Beth (note: not a real name) who, to be honest, I didn't find very physically attractive. Sweet girl, nice as anything, but she just didn't do anything for me looks-wise. It was no problem, she didn't have a thing for me either, so it just a nice, healthy, platonic friendship.

One night, we were talking on Messenger about some dating issues Beth was having. She was a bit down on herself and her looks, so I decided to cheer her up by saying "C'mon, sure you're good-looking! You're at least a six!" As in, a six out of ten. Now, since I didn't find her physically attractive anyway, I thought in my stupid, stupid mind that I was being generous. Mistake.

The next day I related this story to a mutual friend, who almost slapped me upside the head for being such a moron. In my defense, this was almost 10 years ago, when I was but a young and foolish lad who had about as much tact as a drunken Republican. The moral of the story is, never volunteer a number grade about a person's physical appearance unless they're a perfect ten, in which case go ahead and say it since they couldn't possibly be mad about that and good lord, you actually know a perfect ten? Well done!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

And, Like That, He's Gone

BAM, I'm out of Toronto like a bolt and back in London before anyone even knew I was gone. (Unless they didn't notice I was there in the first place...hmm, I must learn to make more of an impression on people. Maybe more yelling?) My exit strategy was formed by about halftime of Toronto FC's crushingly disappointing loss to New York on the 24th, when it became apparent that I would be leaving town pretty soon in lieu of any possible MLS playoff games. With the last week filled with birthday events, sickness and Halloween parties, I barely had time to take stock in the fact that I was once again leaving ol' Toronto town for yet another winter. On the bright side, I highly doubt that a plow goes down the back alley behind my apartment, so at least I get to avoid having my car buried for upwards of three months. How do people in similar situations operate? Do they just wake up one morning in December, notice their car vanished under a massive mound of snow, and then just shrug and commit themselves to taking a bus until the first thaw? Man alive.

It's possible the city didn't want me to leave. I wanted to be on the road before 2 PM in order to avoid any semblance of rush hour in both Toronto or London, but didn't get out of there until after three due to some fantastic incompetence....and not on my part, for a change. I went to get my keys copied for the winter subletter, and popped down to the keycutter in the mall to get the job done. So the keys are cut with no issue, I pop back to the apartment...and neither key works. Fantastic. So then it was BACK to the mall to explain to the guy behind the counter that yes, in fact, there was 'some issue' with the keys in the sense that both were total and complete rubbish. So he re-cuts them, I head back to the apartment, and hey, success! The key to the building's front door opens properly! But...not the key to the actual apartment door. So it was back to the key-cutter for a third bloody time to get another key, and this time, it ended up working. Total time allotted on these back-and-forth trips: a good 45 minutes. Just incredible. Now, I admit to knowing exactly nothing about copying keys, but is it really that difficult a task? Each cut took five minutes, tops, so there clearly isn't an overt amount of craftsmanship needed. Was my apartment door key somehow really complex to duplicate, or was the cutter handling the job just wretchedly bad at his job? My car went in for a service a few weeks ago, thank goodness the garage doesn't operate the same way. "Ah, back again, sir? Oh, this time just two of the tires blew out while you were driving? Ok, that's better! We'll just replace those two blown-out ones, and this time, let's cross our fingers and hope for at least a 75 percent success rate, mmkay?"

When I do get back to TO, at the top of my to-do list is to visit this Commisso Brothers bakery. Rewind to last summer, when I'm at my cousin's place and noting that I don't know of any truly great Angelo's-style food market in Toronto. Rewind again to general London history --- Angelo's is a fantastic all-purpose bakery/market, with three locations in London, one of which is thankfully a five-minute drive from my house. Huzzah for easy access! Anyway, while obviously Toronto has loads of markets that would probably put Angelo's to shame, I've never been able to find one due to my overt laziness. However, my cousin informed me of the Commisso Brothers, which she described as "a Toronto Angelo's." This certainly piqued my attention....though apparently not enough to actually go find the place in the subsequent two months I was in the city. Again, overt laziness, folks. But next year, oh, that'll certainly be the time to commence with the Commissos. I can taste the high-class bologna sandwiches already. That's right, bologna sandwiches on proper panini bread and with proper bologna, not the store-brought stuff that's shaved off of a dead horse's carcass.

Man, this post is making me ravenously hungry for Angelo's. Five minutes, here I come!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Mitchell & Webb

My pal Aron did me a solid by introducing me to the work of Mitchell & Webb, the English comedy duo who star in both the hilarious 'Peep Show' sitcom and their own sketch show, 'That Mitchell & Webb Look' (plus an older show called 'That Mitchell & Webb Situation'). All are wonderful and I still have two more seasons of Peep Show to go.

Top 10 Mitchell & Webb Recurring Sketches/Characters
10. Robert Talks To The Horse
9. The Lazy Writers
8. David's Evil Supervillain
7. Numberwang
6. David and Robert conceiving and working out things that already exist
5. The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar
4. Colin and Ray (the hostage negotiator and porn film writer who share an office)
3. Get Me Hennimore!
2. Drunken Snooker Commentators
1. 'Behind the scenes' with David and Robert

Here's a quartet of their sketches.....

Hiring Lindsay Davenport

Football, football, football!

The benefits of farming

Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit