Thursday, September 30, 2010

Random Nonsense

So the guest list at my wedding is going to be around 60 people. Uh oh, wait, my ma might've just gotten the vapours reading that, so let me clarify, my HYPOTHETICAL wedding will have 60 people representing my side. (Team Mark, as it were.) My roommate and I were discussing the politics of wedding invites since she's Greek and thus might end up having to invite more or less the entirety of London's Greek community to her eventual ceremony. As a result, I got curious and whipped up a short list of who'd be coming to my wedding if I got married tomorrow.

Now, the 60 figure is still just a ballpark. It doesn't factor in all of the plus-ones (though I automatically included a few spouses, significant others that I know would come with invited guests) nor does it count people who might invite me to a wedding in the near-future. Like, if they invite me, I'm pretty much obligated to invite them, right? It would be a real dickhead move to stiff them on the rebound. That's not the feeling I want to generate on my wedding day. It's also a good way to get freeloading self invited to future weddings; if I invite people to mine, they'll be shamed into inviting me too! Since they know that if I'm not invited...(ominous music) I'll crash.

When you add in all the other plus-ones and randoms, it boosts my total to probably around 85-90 overall. And that's not even counting who my future hypothetical wife might invite. So yeah, this is suddenly looking like a 200-person affair. Maybe I should marry one of my current friends just to keep the guest list in check. Nothing says romance like basing a marriage on church capacity.


As we learned from Damon Lindelof's Twitter feed, the Japanese re-title of Jersey Shore is "The New Jersey Life Of Macaroni Rascals." Is 'Macaroni Rascals' my new fantasy football team name? Yes. Yes it is.

While we're on the topic of the Shore, I present....The Jersey Circus.


Once again, I sat out the Toronto International Film Festival, a streak so absurd that I almost feel obligated to keep it going. At the very least, I need another TIFF near-miss so I can replace my way overtold experience of standing in the rush line for 'Synecdoche, New York' two years ago.

I did, however, check out the Bell Lightbox, the festival's new signature theatre and artsy hub in the middle of downtown Toronto. The Lightbox is holding free screenings of several classic films to celebrate its opening, and so I took in a screening of Charlie Chaplin's legendary "City Lights" last weekend.

It speaks to Chaplin's genius that a near-80-year-old silent movie still packed in a sizable crowd on a Saturday morning and also kept them laughing throughout. The Tramp may just be the most perfectly conceived character in pop culture history. He's a complete blend of slapstick, sight gags, and subtleties of character that couldn't be appreciated if he had 1000 words of dialogue. It's hard to top the scene of Chaplin chasing down a cigar butt in his (borrowed) Rolls-Royce, stopping it to push over a homeless guy who's bent over to pick the cigar up, and then angrily chewing the homeless guy out as he hops back in his Rolls and drives away. The Lightbox probably missed a promotional chance by not hiring one of Toronto's many homeless to stand in front of the building so exiting theatregoers could recreate the scene. The "Bell City Lights Bum-Shovin' Experience" (title pending) could've been a real unique feature. Rob Ford would've been first in line.


Weezer's upcoming tour will be a Blue Album/Pinkerton tribute tour of two nights in every city, where they'll play one of the albums in their entirety one night, and then the other album the next night. The working title is the "We've Given Up Tour," or at least basically that's what it feels like. Yeah, everyone knows that Weezer hasn't put out anything good since those two records 14 years (!) ago, but to have the band more or less confirm it is just a bit sad. Also, Weezer are trying to wring fans out of an extra concert ticket since there's no way they couldn't play both discs combined in the same show. Their Blue Album and Pinkerton combined were around 80 minutes. Just do it all in one night, Cuomo. I might even buy a ticket if both records are played in the same night, and if my friend Dan agrees to provide running commentary during the Pinkerton songs.

It must suck to have a band that you love officially mark its irrelevance. I've been lucky thus far with my favourite acts. U2 has toed the line with its very greatest-hits heavy 360 Tour, but at least they're also playing new and unreleased songs on tour for the first time in literally decades, which is a fresh decision. Bruce Springsteen's last two records were a little too adult-contemporary for my taste*, but I think everyone thinks the Boss has a late-career Bob Dylan-esque album or two still in him. Pearl Jam's last record was only okay, but they made themselves irrelevant on purpose years ago.

That said, I feel like an old man just talking about musicians as 'relevant' for their music. Lady Gaga gets her relevance by dressing like a side of beef. Katy Perry gets her relevance for dressing in a low-cut Elmo shirt on Saturday Night Live. Kanye West apparently went through a year of career purgatory for interrupting a speech. Using albums or songs as touchstones seems as quaint as a Chaplin silent film.

* = In the grand tradition of Bruce's Human Touch and Lucky Town albums, I feel like 'Magic' and 'Working On A Dream' could've had the best 10-12 songs culled between the two discs to make one really solid record.


Three more notes on staying relevant: this great New York Times profile of William Shatner, featuring this awesomely poignant line from the Shat: "Retire! Retire! You mean go fishing in Montana? What does that mean: you hated the whole life you lived?"

Also, and this time returning to musical relevance, we have a Pitchfork list! Man, talk about an institution that's just slowly had the cool drained from it like piss through a catheter. Anyway, here's their mostly-okay list of the top 50 music videos of the 1990's. Not to spoil, but Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze are all over this thing like a dirty shirt and the #1 choice is a real letdown. Being Pitchfork, of course they couldn't make an obvious (or correct) pick.

Again with musical (and music video) relevance, here's OK Go's newest video. OK Go made the decision years ago to keep themselves in the public eye by seemingly devoting all of their attention to making fantastic music videos. It's a keen move. This song, for instance, stinks, but hey, I'm still linking to it like a sucker. Puppies!!!!!!11111 Also, I'm a bit disappointed that the guy in OK Go who I thought looked like me no longer seems to look like me. I swear, this guy (the bald one who's not the singer) was a dead ringer for me about a decade ago, but over time he's slowly turning into Titus Welliver. Did they get a new band member? Or just actually hire Titus Welliver?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dream Factz

So, you know my world-famous Amateur Dream Analysis posts? Get this, I actually got some feedback. I was sent a link to this blog entry from, who apparently blog about other things than how to fix and maintain MRI machines. Since their post consists of 15 "fascinating facts" about dreams, I figured I'd use them to further analyze my insane dreams.

1. Late-night snacks can cause nightmares. Huh, well, this might explain everything. I'm not sure I'd call most of my dreams 'nightmares,' per se, but if late-night eating can lead to wacky dreams, then guilty as charged. For instance, I was having some popcorn one night, and then dreamt that I was flying on a plane and saw Orville Redenbacher trying to sabotage the wing.

2. Dreams occur all the time, not just during REM sleep. Apparently we might dream at all times, but our conscious mind blurs it out during the day. Or, if you're crazy, then the dreams just seep through anyway. Oh, to envy the crazy!

3. Day dreams are real. Just by reading the definition, it seems like they're talking more about just idle imagination than actual dreams. Or they could be one and the same.

4. Smells affect your dreams. Come to think of it, I did sleep well that summer in East York when I lived by that bakery. And when I lived next to the pollution plant, I kept having these horrible nightmares about the Nightman. I mean, the upside was that I eventually became the Dayman, but still.

5. Blind people don't "see" in their dreams. Fascinating. So that smell thing would be even more overwhelming in this case.

6. The act of dreaming may be like watching a movie. Back in film class, we learned about how the language of film 'sutures' one into the narrative by teaching the audience that different camera angles mean different point-of-views, editing techniques creating perspective, etc. I wonder if this has become so ingrained within our minds that we simply apply it to every form of perception, even unconscious perception. Also, let's hope this fact applies more to the likes of Inception and not When Dreams May Come. That movie sucked.

7. When you wake up determines whether or not you'll remember your dreams. I buy this. It's like if LOST had ended after the fourth season. I would've driven myself crazy for years trying to figure out what was going on. But, since the series had an actual conclusion, it'll probably be ultimately less memorable over the years. I've already forgotten everything about the show. Who's this Jack everyone keeps talking about? Then again, I might've forgotten about Dreamz on Survivor had I not seen him breaking his promise to Yau Man at the end of the game. I think I'm missing the point of this fact.

8. Your dreaming ability matures by 5th grade. Like hell. When I was nine, I had the most vivid dream of my life, about being locked in a room with a panther. It was terrifying. Fortunately, it was a Carolina Panther and I was easily able to evade it to get into the end zone.

9. Dreams help depression. I would've guessed it would be the other way around. Like, you have a dream where you're successful, happy, rich, have superpowers, are the Dayman, etc. but then you wake up and realize you're still in your own depressed life. What an added bummer. That's your unconsciousness just kicking you when you're down.

10. Your vitals are similar to your waking self when you dream in the REM cycle. I have no real comment here, so instead I'll just rank my top five R.E.M. albums. 1. Monster, 2. Automatic For The People, 3. New Adventures In Hi-Fi, 4. Out Of Time, 5. Document. Come on, it's like I wouldn't make an REM/R.E.M. joke during a post about dreaming? I'm way too much of a hack to pass up that easy layup.

11. Night terrors affect you when you sleep and when you're awake. That's doubly insidious. You'd think the night terrors would at least stick to their designated time of day, or at least take on the generic 'terrors' label so people could be aware of them striking at any time. I love how I'm referring to night terrors like they're villains, or something. Hard to believe there isn't a supervillain called Night Terror, frankly. "Oh no, the Night Terror is trying to hypnotize people into committing crimes! This looks like a job for the Flash!" Flash, of course, being the king of generically-named enemies (Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, etc.)

12. iPads and other tech gadgets can make you have crazy dreams. The previous sentences also works if you omit the words 'have' and 'dreams.' Just ask Steve Ballmer. 100 years ago, did amateur dream analysts write the same things about electric lights? "Their bizarre glow will cause the devil to seep into your brain! Best stick to the tried-and-true gas lantern method! Are we suggesting that Thomas Edison is an agent of Satan? Yes."

13. Your body uses outside influences to keep you asleep. Just ask any poor kid who's ever gone to summer camp and gotten hit with the 'hand in warm water' trick.

14. You're more sexually aroused when you dream. Nuff said. Though, as I've detailed before, while beautiful women are often present in my dreams, they're usually there for some innocuous reason, not for some hardcore sex fantasy. Though, going back to point 7, maybe I would have eventually gotten down to business in this dream but woke up halfway through and thus didn't follow the dream through to its conclusion. Damn you, dreamus interruptus!

15. We forget 95-99% of our dreams. Hence the reason why I've only written about 10 dream analysis posts, as opposed to 759,402 of them. Unless I decide to turn this blog into nothing but documentation of my subconscious. I'll call it "R.E.M. Document" and then eventually get sued into the ground by Michael Stipe.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Amateur Dream Analysis

It's time to once again break down my recent dreams and try to figure out what the hell is going on in my subconscious! BRAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

DREAM: I'm watching an Olympic diving event, or more specifically, an NBC promo package about the biggest name in U.S. diving....Lady Gaga. What? Yeah, in this bizarre alternate reality, Lady Gaga has stepped away from pop stardom to somehow qualify for the American diving squad. Her actual dive isn't a dive at all, but rather a half-cannonball, half-knees first leap into the water that gets her instantly disqualified. She crawls out of the pool angrily bitching to anyone within range of her voice. For the record, Gaga isn't competing in her standard insane wardrobe. She's just in a regular navy blue one-piece bathing suit and a diving cap. And a snorkel for some reason.....wait, that was just her giant nose.

ANALYSIS: Other than my becoming the first heterosexual male to ever dream about Lady Gaga, I'm not sure what this one meant. Is it commentary on Gaga herself --- all hype, big expectation, but when it comes to actual performance, she falls short? Is it a prophetic glimpse into a future collapse (or 'dive,' if you will) in her popularity? Or a nose-dive! Hey-o! Is it a hint that NBC will become so desperate for Olympic ratings that they'll start recruiting celebrities to join the teams? I don't want to live in a world where the relay team's anchor leg is run by Biggest Loser contestants. (Wait, or would that be hilarious?)

DREAM: I'm riding around in the Ecto-1! Score! The Ecto-1, for the uninitiated, is better known as 'the Ghostbusters car.' I'm riding alongside four random dudes in Ghostbusters gear and we seem to be driving through the bland industrial storage landscape of East York or Scarborough. We finally stop, or are pulled over, at one of the endless industrial parks by, you guessed it, Jennifer Aniston. She's using her high-pitched upset voice (Friends fans know what I'm talking about) to chew us out for being late, and the guys in the Ghostbusters gear all mumble apologies.

ANALYSIS: This is certainly not the first time I've dreamed of being a Ghostbuster, though I don't think I was actually in the gear myself. Maybe there just as a casual observer? Omniscient narrator? Or maybe I was there on a ride-along. For the record, I'd probably pay into the four figures in real life to go on a Ghostbusters ride-along, just saying. Aniston's presence can probably be explained by my recent re-reading of an old Bill Simmons column wherein Simmons claimed that Aniston was purposely staying single to keep herself famous, since she's eternally the victim of the Pitt/Jolie hookup. What she is doing in this Ghostbusters scenario is a bit more puzzling. Has she become a caretaker of the Ecto-1? Is this some weird GB remake with Aniston starring in a beefed-up Janine role? The facelessness of the actual Ghostbusters themselves ties into my longstanding theory that the GB franchise can easily be restarted with new actors and characters, just as long as they stick to the classic four-person model. Now, this doesn't mean I want a new Ghostbusters show to feature Aniston/Janine as the star and four randoms as the actual guys themselves, but still, the casting possibilities for new Ghostbusters are endless. The Scarborough location is explained by the fact that the area is a ghost town. Hey-o!

DREAM: I'm an assistant for none other than Liberal MP and Hockey Hall-of-Famer Ken Dryden. Dryden's office has one corner that's just stuffed with Habs memorabilia in a glass case. My job seems to consist of nothing but copying one set of data (literally just random numbers) from one set of journals into another set of journals. Dryden, by the way, acted like a bored seven-year-old. He kept wandering around the office, blathering on about books, and getting snippy whenever I said, "Uh, sir, I need to get to work...."

ANALYSIS: Man, if this is at all accurate, I'm glad Dryden didn't become the Liberal leader. What a baby. Good thing we ended up with Michael "If You Thought John Kerry Was Uninspiring..." Ignatieff. That's working out well! Granted, my entire support of Dryden initially was pretty much solely due to the fact that it'd be cool to wear the prime minister's throwback jersey, but still, that's a pretty big plus. Maybe this dream is my Kafkaesque interpretation of what office work is like. Mind-numbing data entry, an annoying boss, having to stare at Canadiens history and being reminded that the Leafs haven't won a goddamn thing since 1967, etc. My version of "Yes, Minister" is much less entertaining than the British version.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Out-Of-Context Texts In My Phone Inbox, Volume VIII

The identities of the texters will be published in this month's edition of Vogue Magazine. Or will remain anonymous. One of the two.

"See you in the car! -- Milhouse"

"Hey dude, are you at game?"

"Hey buddy, date went pretty well. Inception was great and we went to Shoeless Joes. How was Expendables?"

"Congrats to Sonnen on his steroid abuse. Good thing he didn't beat Silva. Would be stripped anyway. What an idiot."

"Heyyy just getting on the Yonge streetcar, be there soon."

"Txt me later if you feel like a patio."

"When does it start again? You are free to come to my apt before, have a drink and walk over. I think my bro and a friend or two are also coming."

"Oh! I was at the movies! Did you go?"

"Cause he's old and should join Liddell in retirement."

"Hey can you bring my shoppers list from the fridge when you come up???"

"Packer game, Rovers on Bloor, 4:00?"

"Hey Mark, if you're at trivia first, try to get a six-person table (if your friend's still coming)."

"U in London?"

"Hey! Shoppong w/ Greg's parents. Cottage is definitely moved to tmr. What are you up to? Heard you had a nice visit with my mom!"

"Cool buddy"

"I can't get a hold of Ken so if u see him let him know I canceled the hydro and gas. I couldn't transfer it."

"Hey Mark, it's Ben. If you want u can come by and check the place tonight prolly after 7. Let me know and I'll come by and get the cats too."

"Simpsons trivia tonight at the Ossington!"

"Great. See you then."

"Did we ever decide on which day to do Eric's b-day thing?"

"Sounds like the game may go to extras. Luke and I are headed downtown so message me when the game ends and we'll let you know where we are."

"Sounds great, what time do u meet?"

"Thanks for advice. I'm leaning to jam, btw."

"Haha or the new M. Night Shamalamamamalan!"

"How warm is it?"

"In other news, Toney was f'ing impressive in his debut. Man, that guy could do anything he puts his mind to. I overheard he will now train for 9 months and just the American high diving team at the next Olympics."

"At the car"

"Just = join."

"Hey Mark, u playing trivia next wk?"

"Ryan and I have been trying to reach you but no dice. If you are not lost in the woods, you should meet up with us as it is until 11."

"Leaving condo now...taking subway be thrtr soon. Joanne decided to come."

"Hey, missed a call from you the other day. U still in TO?"

"I was just about to text you. Didn't notice the text. Thanks for msging! Have fun in London."

"Luke's down by Gretzky's and I'm headed that way. We'll be stationed at Wayne's prob within 15 or 20."

"Sorry was so distracted with job drama yesterday. I'm usually not like that. Please forgive me. it was fun to hang out and I liked that movie."

"p.s. we got 38 trivia points including a round where we got all 10 questions right. Still didn't win."

"Awake yet for the beaver?"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

UFC 119 Predictions

Yeah, not exactly the biggest barn-burner of a pay-per-view the UFC is bringing us here. This is definitely a 'see it at the bar' card rather than one you order with a group of friends. Unless you have a passionate Evan Dunham fan in your circle of pals, you might want to make alternate plans with your gang. Fair warning, though --- often the most underwhelming cards on paper turn out to the most exciting in practice.

* Evan Dunham over Sean Sherk, decision
Big fight for Dunham here. A win would put him right in the mix for a title shot in the newly wide-opened LW division. A No.1 contender's match could be on the horizon for Dunham, and I think he'll get that necessary win. Sean Sherk hasn't fought in over a year due to injury and will be rusty, as well as boring and possibly steroid-filled. Dunham takes it down.

* Jeremy Stephens over Melvin Guillard, submission, round one
You've heard about gatekeepers. Well, Guillard is basically a gatekeeper towards being a gatekeeper. Basically, if you beat Melvin, you're good enough to not necessary be in the top tier of lightweights, but just in the second tier. Is this my roundabout way of calling Guillard a third-rate fighter? You bet it is! Stephens is, in my opinion, a second-tier guy (though certainly not a title contender) and thus should get the duke.

* Chris Lytle over Matt Serra, submission, round three
Since Serra narrowly beat Lytle in the finals of the fourth Ultimate Fighter season, Serra has gone 2-2, including his massive WW title upset win over Georges St. Pierre. Lytle has gone 7-4 since then, since Lytle is actually a full-time fighter, something that I can't say about Serra. The (ahem) ex-welterweight champ seems to just take fights that settle grudges or can provide a nice payday for him, since Serra is otherwise occupied as a gym owner and trainer. Just based on sheer readiness alone, I have to take Lytle. He's done nothing but sharpen his game since that tight loss to Serra almost four years ago.

* Ryan Bader over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, decision
Geez, here's a result I wouldn't have picked a few months ago. In the wake of Nogueira's controversial, sketchy 'victory' over Jason Brilz in May, I'm not sure what to believe. If Little Nog can't beat Brilz, he surely can't beat the up-and-coming Bader. Then again, it's not impossible that Nog just had an off-night and will return to form in this much more important bout. A win here could put Nogueira in the running for a LHW title shot and a chance for his Black House team to take the title back from Shogun Rua (or Rashad Evans, as the case may be). Either Nog or Bader would probably get one more fight before receiving a title match....possibly against Jon Jones? No wrong answer with either of those fights, man. This fight will come down to whether or not Bader can control Nogueira with wrestling and avoid the submission attempts. What the hell, I'll toss a vote Bader's way.

* Frank Mir over Mirko Cro Cop, TKO, round two
Imagine facing your idol in a competition. Imagine playing guitar against Jimmy Page in a battle of the bands. Imagine staring at Garry Kasparov across a chessboard. Imagine playing Tiger Woods in either a round of golf or a Barney Stinson-esque battle to see who can pull the most women in any given bar. These are all fun and good, but it's different when you face your hero in a bloodsport. Pat Barry, simply, didn't have the heart to really beat up on his idol Cro Cop last June in Vancouver. As a result, Cro Cop was able to pick up the win over his starstruck opponent in a fight that convinced many people (mostly PRIDE diehards) that Mirko was back. He's not. I'd be pretty stunned if Filipovic actually stepped up and knocked off Frank Mir in this fight. In spite of getting dummied by Shane Carwin in his last fight, Mir is still one of the top heavyweights in the world. I see him catching Cro Cop with a hard punch, using it to get him on the mat, and then pounding him out for a TKO (or possibly submitting him). Either way, Mir just brings too much to the table for the modern-day Mirko. I suspect that if Mir wins, he'll take on the Lesnar/Velasquez loser, but if Cro Cop takes it, he'll be booked into a legends match against Randy Couture on the Super Bowl weekend pay-per-view.

* Joey Beltran over Matt Mitrione, decision
* CB Dollaway over Joe Doerksen, decision
* Mark Hunt over Sean McCorkle, TKO, in a fight so lame that it doesn't even deserve to be on the card of an event at your local armoury, let alone on a UFC card
* Waylon Lowe over Steve Lopez, TKO, round two
* Julio Paulino over TJ Grant, decision
* Thiago Tavares over Pat Audinwood, submission, round one

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bieber To The Future


This is, needless to say, an abomination in the eyes of god and man. Kudos to my friend Chris for finding this link, which might be the most horrifying thing you'll see on the internet since 2 Girls 1 Cup. (Also kudos to Chris for his simple comment of, "I'm convinced this is what the guy in Radiohead's 'Just' video was silently mouthing" before providing the link.)

Two years ago, when I wrote my Nobel Prize-winning Back To The Future vs. Ghostbusters comparison, I noted that BTTF's casting was a major part of its success. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd were so awesome for those roles that they made the entire series. Jokingly, I tossed out a what-if of a modern BTTF remake starring Shia LeBeouf as Marty --- plus Michael Richards as Doc --- and how much of an insta-fail that movie would be. This was the most absurd casting I could come up with in 2008, but man alive, at least LeBeouf is an actual actor. He might even be a good actor some day. But seriously, Justin Bieber. Daniel friggin' Day-Lewis could be cast as Doc and even then it would still be below the original Fox/Lloyd pairing. Bieber can sing all he wants (his music isn't aimed at my demographic, so whatever, more power to him) but dammit boy, stay away from beloved Hollywood classics.

Remaking as perfect a movie as BTTF is a bad idea anyway, so at least if this horrific project gets off the ground, I won't even have a glimmer of a reason to go see it. Now I'm worried that my Ghostbusters remake idea will also be co-opted except with the bloody Jonas brothers or something.

*sits back and waits for thousands of extra blog hits to come from mentioning Justin Bieber in a post*

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

On Notice!: Toronto Edition

My annual stint in Toronto is nearing to a close, but before I retreat back to London for my winter hibernation, I had to do a short-term move. When I moved into my recently-departed place in April, it was only on a five-month lease even though I had a six-month work contract lined up. My logic was that it was better to be in a great place for five months than to find a mediocre place for six months. This left me, however, somewhat flying by the seat of my pants for September.

Like Blanche Dubois, however, I found myself relying on the kindness of strangers. No, wait...actually, the total opposite of that. I just moved in with a friend. My pal Joanne lives in a superb apartment on the Esplanade, so I'm currently living the dream in a posh downtown condo. All I need now is a scraggly beard and a taste for shitty indie music and I'll truly be a Toronto stereotype!

With the St. Lawrence Market, a Rainbow Cinema AND a Wendy's just steps from my door, the sky is really the limit here on the 'Nade, as we locals call it. Instead of sneaking popcorn or a soda into the theatre, I could up the challenge and try to sneak in a Baconator or a fresh halibut. If anyone gets suspicious about the fish smell, I'll start blushing and start yelling, "I can't help it!" Would I really subject myself to public embarrassment just to sneak an unmanageably large piece of food into a theatre? Yes. Yes I could.


Of course, saying goodbye to the old place was unfortunate, since I enjoyed living there with my singing, guitar-playing, goth club-visiting, video-gaming, acting, cat-owning pack of roommates. It was a nice townhouse and quite a bargain at just $450 a month. The low price might've been because the townhouse, technically, was right behind a homeless shelter, so you had no shortage of odd-looking characters around the neighbourhood at all hours. They never bothered me, though, so hey, no skin off my back. Hey, if Joanne's place hadn't worked out, I might've just moved my stuff right into the shelter. Could I have fit all my belongings into one bandana and carried them around on a stick? Hard to say. I have a lot of stuff. It'd have to be a strong stick.


Then again, I shouldn't speak ill of the homeless. The other day I was heading into the Eaton Centre when a homeless dude asked me for change. You might wonder what was so odd about this everyday occurrence in the big city, and I'll tell you --- the guy was good-looking. So good-looking, in fact, that my hetero radar (normally attuned to just really overtly handsome cases like Jon Hamm or Brad Pitt) even took notice of it. His clothes had the shabby tint of gear that'd been worn for the last week straight, but from the neck up, he looked more suited to be working at the Eaton Centre's Gap than to be asking for a spare nickel.

Some recent study came out stating that attractive people are more apt to be offered jobs than unattractive people, so you wonder what this guy's issue was. Some kind of reverse Dorian Gray thing? A drinking problem? (I know, a homeless guy with a drinking problem, pretty far-fetched.) Perhaps he was like Moe Syzslak and was hideous until a wall fell on his face and plastic surgery fixed him up.

Anyway, I didn't give him a nickel. I ain't handsome, so I need all the money I can get.


The housing search was very abbreviated for this move, since not only was Joanne offering her place to me, but my ex-roommates (a jazz guitarist and opera singer, respectively, which led to some interesting jam sessions) also offered their couch. So really, there wasn't much pressure in the search other than a simple desire to avoid freeloading off my friends.

This turned out to be a good thing since finding affordable short-term housing in Toronto for just a specific month is a pain in the ass. It's even tougher when that month is September and you have to deal with housing being snapped up by students, or short-term rentals snapped up by tourists in town for the film festival. Booking appointments was a chore in and of itself, since (surprise) most renters aren't keen on just giving up a place for a sole month.

Only three viewings were arranged. Firstly, I found myself in what can only be described as a hovel up near Dundas and Pape. Spirits fell just approaching this shack, and they sunk even lower when the sketchbox landlord showed me through the dingy, poorly-lit, vaguely grimy basement apartment. I shrewdly kept my back to the wall at all times lest the landlord try to choke me out with an ether-soaked rag. This used needle of an apartment could've been mine for the month at the low, low price of $150 a week. No word on if I'd have to pay extra for utilities or if the landlord would've given me a hometown discount on the meth that he surely cooked.

Next up was actually a nice place up by St. Clair and Oakwood that I might've considered had it not been off of St. Clair, arguably the worst street in Toronto. Even with this streetcar project now mostly finished, the street is still far too narrow and an absolute bother to drive at any time of day. For me to put up with this constant traffic, the place would've had to be near-perfect, and it just wasn't. It also didn't help that the leaser was going on about how his roommate was a really anal cook that threw hissy-fits whenever someone took too much time in the kitchen. I doubt that my bachelor diet of sandwiches and rice would've caused too much of a stir, but still, who needs to live with someone like that?

The last place was a boarding house contained entirely within one apartment unit, which I found odd. Turned out this was because the apartment's owner didn't want the building landlady (who lived upstairs) to realize that her tenant was making money on the side by leasing her extra rooms out to other people. So on one hand, moving in here would've made me an outlaw. On the other, this manifested itself in being asked to literally tiptoe into the building and not slam doors too loudly so as to arouse suspicion upstairs. This isn't quite the romantic notion of an outlaw that I was expecting. Clyde Barrow never had to watch out for slamming doors. He just had to worry about being shot 600 times in a 30-second span.


It speaks volumes about my feelings towards the Toronto Raptors that, if I had a pick of any Raptors jersey to own, I'd go with a Hakeem Olajuwon throwback. Remember when Hakeem played for the Raps in his last NBA season? It sounds so outlandish, like the concept of Michael Jordan as a Wizard or Emmitt Smith as a Cardinal, yet those things happened too. There's no downside to a Hakeem Raptors jersey --- one, you're supporting the hometown team, and two, you're also paying tribute to one of the all-time NBA greats. There aren't many good Raptor jersey options, frankly, given how their superstars have a nasty habit of napalming bridges on their way out of town.


The CNE. Hadn't officially been since I was a little kid, and maybe not even then. I have vague memories of attending a big fair as a toddler, but that might've been London's own Western Fair, another childhood staple. (Though both were nothing compared to the old Dorchester Fair, which still to this day produced the best french fries I've ever eaten in my life. They just came from a generic chip wagon, but man, those Dorchesterans must've used some magic formula of salt and grease.) I've tromped through the CNE grounds a few times over the last few years on my way into BMO Field for soccer games, since obviously Major League Soccer has so little sway that they couldn't avoid scheduling a game or two during a massive carnival, but I'd never really stopped and enjoyed the CNE properly.

Until last week, that is. The roommate and some extended friends headed out to enjoy the Ex since, after all, what's better after a long day of moving than walking around a fair for three hours? The blister currently peeling off between my baby and fourth toe notwithstanding, it was a fine time. A fine $50 time since man alive, those games really add up, but still.

Fortunately I got some return on my $50. My prowess at tossing a ball into a basket won my roommate a stuffed green elephant holding....some damn thing, it's a yellow guitar case or bottle or foam middle finger, I dunno. I also took home a Maggie Simpson doll for myself thanks to that laughable game known as the "guess your age/weight" challenge. They should just call it "Give Mark A Prize." Thanks to my shaved head and general man-child appearance, my age is a tough nut to crack. Playing this game in Las Vegas years ago at age 14, the guy thought I was 23. (In hindsight, I should've used this confusion to play some poker in the casinos.) So needless to say, this guy at the Ex didn't have a hope. He tried to draw it out by writing his guess down and then asking the first digit of my age. When I said it was '2,' he just turned in disgust and waved me over to the prize rack without even revealing his (surely, way off) guess. The Maggie doll was mine, all mine!


Poor Mr. Ho. I'm sure he and his family moved to Toronto years ago with dreams of success in the big city, and sure enough, here he is with an apparently thriving business near the corner of Wellesley and Jarvis. The problem, however, is that Mr. Ho may not have had the best grasp of North American slang, since otherwise he wouldn't have named his establishment HO TEAM in giant letters across the storefront. Or, maybe he did --- hell, it sure got me talking about it here, didn't it? I don't even know what HO TEAM sells, produces or does. I prefer the mystery. It would be kind of great if it actually was a brothel, under the logic of 'hiding in plain sight.'


A Yahoo Sports hockey blog has been running a 'Mount Puckmore' series for the last month inviting various hockey bloggers to define the top four icons (to fill a Mt. Rushmore) for their respective teams. Naturally, the greatest franchise in hockey history was saved for last, though I'm not crazy about their selections.

When you have as many legendary figures as the Maple Leafs, it's hard to whittle the candidates down to just four. It's not just players, either --- the scope can be widened to coaches, front office types, owners, even broadcasters. Adding to the problem is deciding if you should just pick a blanket top four, or to try and represent every 'era' of a team.

The guys from Pension Plan Puppets (linked on my blogroll) had the task of filling the Leafs' quartet out, and they did an okay job. Their choices were Conn Smythe, Mats Sundin, Borje Salming and Ted Kennedy, which is a pretty fair summation of Toronto hockey history. But I dunno, are these really the four names that leap to mind when you think of the Maple Leafs?

Here's my foursome: Smythe, Kennedy, George Armstrong and Dave Keon. If you take the 'all players' route, when replace Smythe with Sundin. The PPP guys cited Salming because he was both a great Leaf and the first great European star to break into the NHL, but while this might earn him a spot in Sweden's Mount Puckmore*, I just think there were a few more notable names in Leafs history. Armstrong and Keon's eight combined Cups were a big tie-breaker. Sure, it may be unfair to penalize Salming for not being able to win a Stanley Cup during the godawful Harold Ballard ownership era, but these are the tough choices you need to make in a Mount Puckmore.

* = Salming, Sundin, Nick Lidstrom, Peter Forsberg

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Wilderness Downtown

I almost feel bad blogging about the Arcade Fire's new online video/interactive experience since it's not going to work on several different browsers. Apparently the optimal browser for it is Google Chrome, which I didn't know existed until a couple of days ago. It *kinda* works on Safari, doesn't work at all on Camino, and I haven't tried it on IE. Still, from what I've seen of it on Safari, it looks pretty dang cool.

The effect also might not be quite so impressive if you happened to grow up in a heavily forested area. But never mind, I'm spoiling too much as it is.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

NFL Season Preview

NFC East
What a dogpit of a division. (No pun intended given that Mike Vick plays in it.) You have four good teams here that are going to beat the hell out of each other all season long, so much so that the division winner will be lucky to be better than 10-6. Of the four, I'm actually going to go ahead and pick Washington to emerge on top. I've been making hay picking against the Skins for years, but Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb will provide enough of a temporary boost to get them a playoff berth. The franchise still has too many inherent problems (coughcoughDanSnydercough) to not collapse like a house of cards within the next few years and undergo another makeover, but in the short term, they can win this division. Philadelphia has a big question mark in Kevin Kolb as their new starting QB, but Philly is deep enough to remake themselves as a defense-first team that only needs the quarterback to be a game manager. Even with McNabb, they often fell into this role anyway. Dallas has all the pieces but I just feel like this team is a disappointment waiting to happen. They have the feel of the early 2000's Maple Leafs teams --- their avid fans think they're Cup contenders and they're a big enough market to convince some national media likewise. In reality, however, it's just setback after setback. Pretty much everything went right for the Cowboys last year and they still got blown out by Minnesota in the elite eight. Bringing up the rear are the Giants, who seem like a team on the verge of a really crappy season that empties the cupboard in the offseason. In this division, it could happen quite easily; New York could finish 4-12 and not be that lousy a club.

NFC West
It's a shame that maybe three NFC East teams will miss the playoffs and one of the West teams will get in. Honestly, the entire NFC was just one big 16-team mass conference, I think I'd have to go to the double digits before I got around to ranking an NFC West club. I guess I'll pick the 49ers just because they have the fewest flaws. I'm liking Patrick Willis as a defensive player of the year candidate and Alex Smith, while a terrible quarterback, is still the second best guy in the division. I'd still take Smith over the giant living question mark that is the Cardinals' quarterback situation. Kurt Warner retired to go on Dancing With The Stars, and Matt Leinart went from heir apparent to benched trade bait after an awful preseason. Now, the Cards were NFC champs two years ago and NFC semi-finalists last season, but that was almost solely based on their huge passing game. With Anquan Boldin in Baltimore and Warner tapping his toes on ABC, suddenly that passing game is just Larry Fitzgerald twisting himself like a pretzel to catch a wayward Derek Anderson pass. The Cardinals are going to be in tough. Seattle will have a mediocre positive year, not to be confused with a positively mediocre year --- they'll finish 5-11 but be frisky enough that people will think Pete Carroll has the ship turned around. Of course, after seasons of 7-9 and 6-10, Carroll will be fired again and the Seahawks will have to start over, but still, positivity! The Rams will finish last again and be slightly improved from last year, but still, that's only a bump up to around 3-13. Steven Jackson will continue to hate life.

NFC North
*crosses fingers* The Packers are going to win the NFC this year. *knocks on wood* Their offense is going to be scary, their defense has (theoretically) patched some holes after being torn apart by Arizona in the playoffs last year, and they just seem to have the look of a young, hungry team that's ready to make the leap. *throws salt over shoulder* I'm worried about Charles Woodson being able to repeat his incredible 2009 season and the team's continued lack of proven offensive line depth, but still, overall, go Packers. *releases white cat to walk in front of my path* What I do feel confident in predicting this season is that Green Bay will get at least one win over the hated Minnesota Vikings, who are going to fall the hell apart. Zombie Brett Favre will finally be broken apart, or else he'll spend his last NFL season throwing frustrated interceptions past guys who aren't Percy Harvin or Sidney Rice. I will laugh the entire time. Go to hell, Zombie Brett. If all goes well, Minnesota might even finish behind Detroit, who is my surprise pick of the season. I think they're set to shock a lot of people and avoid another double-digit loss season. Jahvid Best, folks. Jahvid Best. Finishing ahead of the Vikings is probably a pipe dream, but the Lions are going to finish ahead of the rudderless Chicago Bears. Speaking of teams who will clean house in the offseason, the Bears need a total front office overhaul after several years' worth of mismatched moves. I doubt their latest offseason shopping spree (i.e. Julius Peppers) will help them since it doesn't solve the overall problem that Jay Cutler is a crappy quarterback. He ain't getting any better, folks. Emo Jay is simply not a winner. He's a poor man's Eli Manning, which is saying something. Chicago is in for a long year.

NFC South
I've rarely been as fired up watching a neutral-team's Super Bowl victory as I was watching the Saints win the title last February. In fact, other than Green Bay's win in Super Bowl 31, I'd say that New Orleans' triumph was probably the happiest I've ever been due to a Super Bowl result. Part of it was because they beat the hated Colts, but really, how can you root against such a likable team from such an unlucky city? It almost seems like Bill Simmons' "five-year grace period" after a team wins a championship should be stretched to a decade for N'awlins fans can wallow in their own crapulance for a while longer. Of course, it could also continue naturally since the Saints are going to be terrific again in 2010. Some of the magic will wear off but overall, most of the core is back to defend the belt. They're going to have two big games against Atlanta, who will push them for the division title, but the Falcons seem like a 'breakout season, then sophomore slump, then continued success' team in this third year of the Mike Smith era. Those two Saints/Falcons games are going to be two of the better games on the NFL schedule. Hell, Carolina is going to add some friskiness to the division themselves now that they've finally rid themselves of the Jake Delhomme millstone and seemingly have a new breakout running back every season. I'm not sure if the Panthers have enough to overcome one of their patented 8-8 campaigns, but they'll be a solid team. Rounding out this solid division are the brutal Buccaneers. Dead last, top-five in next year's draft, guaranteed.

AFC East
When last we saw the Patriots, they were getting humiliated on their home field by Baltimore in the wild card round. It was such a supreme ass-kicking that you'd think it might be cause some major turnover in New England, but here they are again, looking like the class of the NFC East. The key is that Tom Brady is fully recovered from knee surgery and should be ready to go provided that he gets the offensive line help. This might be New England's last stand as an legit Super Bowl contender, since they're just barely on the fringe of the 'real contender' category right now. I'm going to surprise some folks now by picking Miami as my runner-up in the division for many of the same reasons that I had Atlanta stepping up as a quality team in their third year under new management. Brandon Marshall is a big help for Chad Henne, and if Ronnie Brown can stay healthy, that's an overall pretty scary offense. In third place, now we finally see the New York Jets, a trendy preseason Super Bowl pick for amnesiacs who forget that this team was total crap for about the first 14 weeks of last season. A hot playoff run shouldn't obscure the fact that this team still has a lot of holes, and Revis Island's continued holdout isn't a a good sign. Take note of Atlanta and Miami, Jets fans --- this is your sophomore slump year, so look forward to 2011. The only question about Buffalo's season is whether or not they'll be the worst team in the league. What a rotten, go-nowhere club. Blergh.

AFC West
Not a lot of skill out west in the NFL, eh? The NFC West is a pile of garbage, and the AFC West doesn't have much to it either. San Diego should still be a good team even minus Vincent Jackson (holdout) and the washed-up LaDainian Tomlinson, though I dunno, you'd figure that Norv Turner's shine will eventually wear off one of these seasons. The Chargers are still the best of the bunch and then it's a question about who the runner-up is. I'm taking the (very) less-traveled route and picking Oakland, yes Oakland, to finish second. Jason Campbell is no great shakes, but remember how vastly improved the Raiders looked last year when Bruce Gradkowski was behind centre? Gradkowski is about a D+ himself, but that's a big upgrade from the F-minus that JaMarcus "Precious" Russell was putting up. Since Campbell is about a C/C-Plus, that might be enough to push an underrated Raiders team up in a weak division. Kansas City is still in the building phase of creating a time machine to remake the 2003 New England Patriots, and Denver is going to be (in my opinion) terrible. Tim Tebow might actually have to be the messiah to make the Broncos a winning team. I'm calling San Diego in first, the Raiders and Chiefs separated by a hair at around 7-9 or even 8-8, and then Denver checks in at 5-11.

AFC North
So yeah, Baltimore. It's their conference to lose. They have all the pieces, all the momentum, two good playoff runs in the last two years to earn some big-game reps, and now they have no excuses. If they get knocked out by the Colts AGAIN, then you can write off this era of Ravens football. I just think they'll finally take that step into the Super Bowl this season, provided of course that they find a cornerback or two of note to stand up to Indianapolis. They might not need a corner in their division since, in case you hadn't heard, Pittsburgh won't have their star QB for six games. Ben Roethlisberger, you see, is a complete slimeball. I've always had kind of a soft spot for the Steelers, but now I'm hoping that Big Ben gets drilled into the ground once he finally gets back on the field. Given that Pittsburgh's first six games are against Atlanta, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Cleveland and Miami (four toughies and two virtual byes), it's not unthinkable that the Steelers could be 2-4 by the time Roethlisberger returns. That's a deep hole to be in against this Baltimore club. Some folks are thinking that even the Bengals might leap ahead of Pittsburgh in Ben's absence, but let's be real, the Bengals were a mirage. They ran an inexplicable early hot streak to go 6-0 in their division last year, but then totally ran out of gas by around Week 12 and were killed in the playoffs by New York. Adding a washed-up distraction like Terrell Owens isn't going to help things, and I doubt Cedric Benson replicates his big 2009 season. As bad as Cincy finished last year, the Browns finished well, going 4-0 and saving Eric Mangini's job. They didn't suddenly discover a magic formula for winning games, and if they did, they bought themselves a pretty crappy sorcerer's apprentice in Jake Delhomme. Cleveland's push is still a year or two away, and they'll probably need to fire Mangini first.

AFC South
So by this point, we know better than to pick against Indianapolis, right? In the eight years since the AFC South has been created, Indy has finished first six times and second twice. Nuff said. Let's pencil the Colts in for another first place finish unless someone proves otherwise. (Or, unless they decide to be even bigger douchebags and take the last six games off after starting 10-0, figuring that ten wins is enough to make the playoffs.) Indy does have a couple of solid contenders, though. I'm going all-in on Houston --- they jumped to 9-7 last season and now the next step is to finally make the postseason. Schaub, Johnson, hopeful-stalwart-of-my-fantasy-team Jacoby Jones, the Foster/Slaton running back set, Mario, Cushing, Ryans, Daniels and a cast of thousands. That sounds like a playoff team to me. Tennessee is also looking pretty solid, but it's hard to tell if this schizo team is closer to the one that started 0-6 last year or the one that finished 8-2. I seem to recall the Titans putting their faith in Vince Young as a proven quarterback before and it didn't quite work out so well. You know what? I can't tell if Tennessee is in the playoffs of not. It's between them and the Dolphins for the sixth seed in my mind, and since these two play each other in Week 10, I'll let that game decide my pick. This division isn't unlike the NFC South, actually --- three good teams and one total dog from Florida. The NFC South has the Bucs, and the AFC South has the Jaguars. Jack Del Rio, start updating your resume, since your time is finally up.

NFC wild cards: Falcons, Eagles
AFC wild cards: Texans, whomever wins the Dolphins/Titans game on Nov. 14

*Falcons over 49ers, Redskins over Eagles
Patriots over Texans, Dolphitans over Chargers
*Packers over Falcons, Saints over Redskins
Ravens over Dolphitans, Colts over Patriots
* Packers over Saints, Ravens over Colts

Super Bowl 45....
Packers over Ravens. Now, here's the added twist to this game. Green Bay is my favourite team, Baltimore is my brother's favourite team. If this actually ends up being the real Super Bowl matchup, my brother and I are seriously considering flying to Dallas and getting scalped tickets just to see this epic in person. We will also have a wager well into the triple-figures on the outcome of the game, possibly into four figures. It may tear our sibling relationship apart, quite frankly. Sure, it isn't quite the emotional drama of a city getting over a hurricane, but still, pathos!