Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best Posts Of 2011


It's always been a dream of mine that I, a guy named Mark, would become so known as a brilliant blogger that I'd be unofficially nicknamed 'Markie Post.' If only I'd adopted that as my posting name rather than this whole 'Question Mark' nonsense. How is the Riddler a good influence?! A criminal so inept he actually leaves clues behind so he can be caught? Come on!

Anyway, the end of the year is the time to reflect on bad choices such as these. In case you made the bad choice of not checking this blog every hour on the hour for new updates, here's a look back at some personal favourites that you may have overlooked because you're a big smelly jerk. HOW DARE YOU [/Geoff Peterson]

December 17: A big vent of happiness about how great the past season of "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" was. Fun thing I forgot to mention: the performance of Alanna Ubach as Frank's whore (literally) fiancee. My mind was blown since Alanna Ubach gained childhood immortality playing the original assistant on Beakman's World. Good lord! Someone needs to write an elaborate fan-fiction about Charlie trying to set a trap to catch Lester the lab rat.

December 15: My review of "My Week With Marilyn." For some reason, most of my recent reviews have covered films that I didn't love or even necessarily really like, but simply found interesting. Honestly, that's probably the most fertile ground for analysis --- a concept that's *almost* there but was misconstrued in some way. Basically, I just like being a Monday morning quarterback. The more I think about it, it seems to be Michelle Williams' Oscar to lose at this point.

November 29: Case in point, this review of "Anonymous," which is really more a review of Roland Emmerich's dumb-ass theories about Shakespeare. A fantastic by-product of this authorship controversy is the fact that my brother believes it whole-heartedly. Actual quote from my brother recently: "Biggie was a better writer than Shakespeare. At least Biggie was real."

November 20: A big, long, bet-hedging screed about why the Packers weren't going to finish with a perfect record. Sure enough, they did indeed lose a game, which is probably better for their Super Bowl chances in the long run since now they can rest Aaron Rodgers and the other regulars this week. Hilariously and obviously, the game Green Bay finally lost was against Kansas City, the opponent I considered "the only gimme" remaining on their schedule.

November 4: I write 550 words about a ruined pair of pants. There's no such thing as a small topic, only a small author....or an author with way too much time on his hands. (Author/blogger, whatever.)

October 20: Some of the great audience reactions I've experienced at the movies. I look forward to adding another one to the list next week when the entire crowd joins together as one to chant "WAR HORSE, WAR HORSE, WAR HORSE!" #itcouldhappen

October 5: I update my rankings of the best comic-book movies ever made. In hindsight, doing this just months before 'Dark Knight Rises' gets released may have been a mistake.

September 27: I judge my immortal soul by seeing how many of the Ten Commandments I've broken in my lifetime. This one wins the prize for most popular post of the year among my friends, going by the unscientific method of Facebook likes and "Hey, I thought that post of yours was really funny!" mentions. It's probably disturbing that so many of my friends found the idea of my eternal damnation to be so amusing.

September 12: Pearl Jam and a very special guest just absolutely rock the fuck out at a Toronto concert and I'm there to see it. I dunno why I'm being so coy about the special guest...it was Neil Young. It's right there in the post's title, no need to hide it now.

September 8: My preseason NFL picks. Top four worst predictions, in no particular order: San Diego winning the AFC, the Saints finishing THIRD in the NFC South and missing the playoffs, Phil "Fantasy Team Killer" Rivers as the offensive player of the year, and the Rams winning the NFC West. On the bright side, at least I realized the Eagles would be a disappointment.

September 4: Analyzing my dream about an intergalactic flamingo attack. Androids dream of electric sheep, but I dream of alien flamingoes.

August 28: My day with the Stanley Cup. I can admit it now, this post was just slightly fictionalized.

August 21: This one isn't really *my* writing, but rather just a collection of terrific Grantland pieces from the site's first few months of existence. What the hell, I'll include it here, the stories are still great.

August 18: Pour one out for my old Macbook, which suffered an unfortunate and untimely demise this past summer. This is apparently a common affliction among Macs, since some friends of mine have also had their laptops suddenly die without warning. AND, Steve Jobs died before his time. What do they have over there at Apple, a bunch of hourglasses full of Skittles?

August 8: A look at how everyone turned on Tiger Woods, which basically could've been subtitled "Haters Gonna Hate, Even Though The Hate-ee Is Admittedly A Dickhead." It's also amusing, in hindsight, to note that nobody is exactly sticking to Stevie Williams as a cult hero, eh?

August 6: A bunch of random nonsense. Everything about that Antonio Banderas hat still fascinates me.

July 26: A collection of movie reviews. The fact that 'Tree Of Life' is getting legitimate Oscar buzz is baffling and infuriating. There's surely no way this thing could actually win Best Picture, could it? I never thought I'd see a BP winner worse than 'A Beautiful Mind,' but yet...

July 25: A breakdown of the most recent UK Apprentice season, and a general endorsement of the entire UK Apprentice series. My buddy Kyle tells me that there's such thing as "UK Junior Apprentice," that features a teenage cast. The thought of Lord Sugar berating some 15-year-old Cockney punk straight out of 'Attack The Block' is just amazing to me.

July 14: The annual tradition known as the Alterna-Emmys. As much as I enjoy writing these posts, I'd enjoy it a lot more if the Emmys actually got it right just once and rewarded deserving shows.

July 12: My fifth U2 concert, and so far they're 5-for-5. The post-concert highlight was my friend Ravi (who was also at the show) calling me up afterwards and having a 30-minute conversation about both the concert and U2's current musical standing in general. It was deep stuff, man.

June 30: The stretch of Dufferin between King Street and the CNE gets my vote as the worst street in Toronto. I think the best street in town might be that stretch of Eastern Road by the bakery whenever they're cooking fresh bread. Having a nose is AWESOME.

June 20: The final instalment of my 30-day Movie Challenge. (The first four parts are linked in this post.) I've got to be honest, it was more fun posting this was Facebook since I got to seek out all those cool pictures of the films. "Hey Mark, couldn't you have just posted those same pictures to the blog?" Uh, well, technically yes, but...shut up, Voice of Reason!

June 15: The infamous list of baby names. If I had a child, what would I name it? Or, if I had 44 children (22 boys, 22 girls, nice and even), what would I name each of them? It occurs to me that this list is a great potential pickup opportunity. You know, a woman is reading it, realizes she'd also love to have a daughter named Svetlana, and then falls madly in love with me. I should re-post this list once a month just to take advantage of his possibility since (if you can possibly believe it) blogging doesn't often get me laid.

May 23: I fix a toilet and am WAY too proud of myself about it. It's still astounding my apartment wasn't washed away in a Noah-esque flood.

May 16: My ranking of the best Survivor players of all time, sticking to just the show winners. This has been updated, by the way, to include the winner of the just-concluded Survivor: South Pacific season and it'll probably be updated for the rest of time to reflect future winners. So essentially, I'm condemning myself to even more future hours writing about this increasingly silly program.

May 15: This is easily the most anyone has ever written about journeyman actor Eric Lutes.

May 12: I ask the question, 'is Tiger Woods finished?' Given that he went the rest of the PGA Tour season without winning or really seriously contending in a tournament, the answer is still...maybe. And don't give me that bullcrap about Tiger winning the Chevron World Challenge or whatever that cheesy, 17-man field, silly season event is called. That's not a real victory. That's like winning a Golden Globe and claiming you're an Oscar winner.

May 6: Another random nonsense post, including my celebrity encounter with Mad Men's Rich Sommer.

April 23: Another dream analysis, this one vaguely concerning the Royal Wedding. No, this isn't just a dirty story about Kate Middleton.

March 28: A look inside Blogger's statistics to see just which of my blog posts are actually the most popular with readers. Y'know, instead of just relying on anecdotes and personal opinion like....uh, this post.

March 12: That damned Spider-Man Broadway musical that cost millions of dollars, dozens of actors' good health and most importantly, cost me from hearing a new U2 record this year. I never thought I'd directly quote Dr. Octopus like this, but damn that infernal wall-crawler!

February 25: The Markademy Awards! Not to spoil things for the next edition coming up in two months, but there have been very few films I've considered to be truly capital-G Great this year. Plus, if the Academy actually nominates a bunch of crap like 'The Tree Of Life,' I'll have PLENTY to rant about.

February 14: A solid instalment of the Hot! Live! Music! series. It includes my being totally ignorant about Adele, which is kind of funny since she went on to be the biggest musical star of 2011. Almost a year later, I've learned MUCH more about Adele, such as the fact that "Someone Like You" was co-written by the guy from Semisonic. Okay, that's the only Adele fact I know, and really, it's more about the guy from Semisonic. Maybe I should make it my 2012 resolution to learn more about that guy....like, for instance, his actual name.

February 5: I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl and WAS TOTALLY CORRECT! YEAH BABY! Not to blow my own horn amidst this entire post detailing my greatest blogging hits, but I was really impressed with my "the Packers overcame every major story of the 2010 NFL season" theory.

January 30
April 11: I'll break with the chronological order for these ones. In January, I outlined the stupidity of the NHL's "Guardians" promotion, then in April, I used the Guardians as the basis for my Stanley Cup predictions. And I WAS TOTALLY CORRECT! YEAH BABY!...wait, the Lightning beat the Blackhawks in the Cup final, right?

January 13: An update on the ongoing slap bets I'm a) participating in and b) am overseeing as commissioner. Oddly enough, they both involve my buddy Kyle and (even more oddly) this particular update doesn't involve me being slapped in the face.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

UFC 141 Predictions



Just a reminder if you're ordering this show. It's on FRIDAY night, at 10 PM. The UFC is airing a rare Friday PPV so as to avoid New Year's Eve, and the PPV start times are returning to 10 PM since…well, they're blaming the switch to 9 PM as the reason for their declining PPV buys. I guess it makes sense given that starting at 6 PM on the west coast is awfully early, but I dunno guys, maybe the decline in buys could have more to do with the fact that there are suddenly about four UFC shows a month, eh?


* Donald Cerrone over Nate Diaz, decision
There's really no doubt that Jon Jones is the 2011 fighter of the year given the caliber of competition he dominated and the fact that Jones is a champion, but man, Cerrone can put in a great case for the silver medal. A win over Diaz would make Cerrone a perfect 5-0 in 2011. Cerrone just beat Dennis Siver two months ago and he's already back in the cage, with possibly just one more win standing between he and a title shot. Diaz is tough but Cerrone might quietly be one of the best fighters in the world who we just haven't yet identified as such. Of interest --- the only man who's legitimately beaten Cerrone was Benson Henderson, who did so twice in the WEC. So if Cerrone does win and lay his claim to a title shot, he could be held up if Henderson beats Frankie Edgar for the title in February. I can't think of anyone more deserving than Cerrone who'd be next in line, however, since Gilbert Melendez is still slumming it in Strikeforce.


* Jimy Hettes over Nam Phan, submission, R2
With all due respect to up-and-comer Jim Hettes, this is one of the least-worthy main card PPV fights in recent memory. The UFC should thank its lucky stars that Lesnar and Overeem stayed healthy since if one of them had to cancel on short notice and leave this show without a main event, the PPV buyrate doesn't even crack six figures. Anyway, Hettes has nine submissions in nine careers fights, so I suspect he'll continue his tap out streak against Phan. While Nam Phan has never been submitted in his career, he has lost a LOT (17-9 career record) and it's safe to say he's Not A Good Fighter.


* Jon Fitch over Johny Hendricks, decision
In the spirit of Chief Wiggum's "yeah, now we love the house!" attitude, I've done a total 180 on Jon Fitch. Whereas I used to think he was the dullest fighter under the sun, I've come to see his matches as less competitive fighting and more as performance art. The guy just canNOT be beaten (except by Georges St. Pierre) and it's HILARIOUS. I'm now openly rooting for opponents to "get Fitched," a.k.a. getting clutched against the fence and perhaps taken down, wherein Fitch will position himself in a half-assed half-guard position and rain light, ineffective punches down for the duration of the round. Rinse, repeat, Fitch gets another decision. Hendricks is a talented wrestler himself so Fitch may have more trouble controlling him than usual, but let's be honest, we all know how this one ends. If Hendricks actually does beat Fitch in a huge upset, he should immediately get the first crack at Carlos Condit/Nick Diaz's interim WW title. That's the respect that should be shown to a man that actually cracks the Fitch Code.


* Alexander Gustafsson over Vladimir Matyushenko, TKO, R3
I love this booking. This is classic "up-and-coming young star against a tough-as-nails veteran looking for one more run" matchmaking. I'm a big Gustafsson fan and think he might just be a fight or two away from losing to….er, that is, "challenging" Jon Jones for the light-heavyweight belt. That said, Matyushenko has shattered the dreams of many a young guy looking to make his name off "The Janitor's" reputation. Man, do I love that nickname. "The Janitor." I realize the symbolism of Vlad wanting to get himself over as the guy who likes to take care of the proverbial dirty work, but how long into his 14-year MMA career do you think he started to regret his choice of nickname? Six months? A year? The first time the announcer said it and caused a good chunk of the live crowd to openly laugh? I cannot deny that it's the absolute perfect moniker for the hard, old-school guy that Matyushenko has turned into, but still, 'Janitor.' Amazing. He should have Neil Flynn as his cornerman.


* Brock Lesnar over Alistair Overeem, TKO, R1
The result here is pretty easy to determine. Either Overeem catches Lesnar coming in and knocks him silly, or Lesnar takes Overeem down and pounds him into oblivion. It's a coin toss as to who will implement his special first. My coin came down on Lesnar's side despite the fact that Lesnar is fighting for the first time in 14 months and for just the fourth time since November 2008. It takes a lot to pick a man who's been ravaged by diverticulitis but my bigger issue with Overeem is that he might not actually be any good. Sure, he's the "Strikeforce heavyweight champion" and 10-0-1 over the last four years, but Overeem has an Andy Warhol record --- lots of cans. You can argue his only solid win in that stretch was over Fabricio Werdum, and Werdum is only dangerous if he gets you on the ground. Overeem avoided that scenario in a blah decision win over Werdum last June but Lesnar's takedowns are slightttttty more dangerous than Werdum's. Just slightly. By a factor of fifty. I'm not even sure Brock's so-called glass jaw is a factor, since even though Cain Velasquez knocked Lesnar silly last year, Lesnar was certainly able to withstand a ton of punishment from Shane Carwin and still win.

I suspect the UFC wouldn't mind seeing their big draw lose here, since an Overeem victory would establish him as a new big deal in the company and set up a major unification bout against Junior Dos Santos. Overeem is kind of killed by a loss here, while Lesnar losing can just be written off as a case of ring rust and whatnot. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Overeem actually win but I'll stick with my Lesnar choice. I'm not so easily 'diverted.' Ha ha, because he had diverticulitis! Ha ha, health problems! And he's the guy I picked to win!……groan.

Undercard….
* Diego Nunes over Manvel Gambuyran, decision
* Ross Pearson over Junior Assuncao, decision
* Dong Hyun Kim over Sean Pierson, KO, R2
* Luis Ramos over Matt Riddle, decision
* Danny Castillo over Anthony Njokuani, decision
* Jacob Volkmann over Efrain Escudero, submission, R1

Friday, December 23, 2011

Survivor Ratings: Sophie


So the 23rd (!) season of Survivor is in the books and the 22nd Survivor champion has been named. Where does Sophie Clarke stack up against past winners of the show? As someone who has already written way, WAY too much about Survivor, let's analyze her victory…

The three main criteria in my previous 'best players ever' post was to judge the winners by the manner in which they won their season, their so-called skillset and the likelihood of them winning Survivor again should they make a return appearance. By all of these standards, Sophie did a more than solid job.

How she won: an old-fashioned Survivor gameplan of getting into an alliance, sticking to it to the very end, and then getting yourself into a sub-alliance within the larger group that would get to the final tribal council. Given how solid the Upolu alliance ended up being (thanks in large part to Brandon and Coach's religious hectoring), Sophie basically had this thing wrapped up the moment the Upolus got Cochran to flip and give them the numbers advantage at the merge.

Now, I say 'basically had this thing wrapped up' unless Ozzy had, of course, gone on an immunity run and gotten himself into the final three, since obviously he would've won going away in yet another example of why the Redemption Island gimmick is stupid. But if you had never seen Survivor before and judged this season solely by how the show was being presented and edited, you would've thought Coach would be the winner by a landslide. If the show was to be believed, Coach was the one that swung Cochran (who was no doubt a bit starstruck by dealing with a Survivor icon), which ended up being the key turning point in the game. Coach was also by all accounts the 'leader' of the Upolu tribe, kept them in a tight group with no thoughts of flipping (besides Albert's half-assed plans) and all things considered, played a terrific game.*

Except….well, Coach is a terrible Survivor player. We know this and the players in the cast know this. I find it hard to believe that this guy who was an utter and total clown for two seasons suddenly flipped a switch and became a poor man's Boston Rob in his third try. Instead, I find it MUCH easier to believe that what we saw on the show wasn't *really* what happened, but instead was another example of Survivor's increasingly piss-poor editing. The producers' favourite quartet of Coach/Ozzy/Brandon/Cochran took up at least 85% of the screentime this season since they were the ones with the biggest personalities that the show wanted to highlight as the 'stars' of the season. This isn't to say that Survivor hasn't always been edited with an eye towards producing a heightened reality of the show, but at least in past seasons they weren't so obvious about it.

Anyway, getting back to Sophie, it was clear that her strategy was to get in an alliance filled with goats. You had Coach, the living Survivor joke. You had Rick, the nearly-invisible cowboy who was all about loyalty and was thus the perfect fourth wheel in an alliance. You had Edna, loyal because she had to be and also seemingly ignorant as to her low standing in the tribe. You had Albert, who was so transparent in his desire to curry jury votes and be seen as a real mover and shaker and it lost him everyone's respect. And then you had Brandon, the borderline-psychotic who seemed to be on orders from God to be a loyal tribe member. It seems like Sophie would've won in just about any final-three combination of this sextet, though Rick (who seemed well-liked, if low-profile) might have drawn enough votes in a Rick-Coach-Sophie scenario to force a tie in the final vote, which, if I understand my Mayan calendar correctly, turns Jeff Probst into a pillar of salt and triggers the end of the world.

* = I believe that Coach fell into his success in this series purely by accident, since if he'd had any sense of what he was doing, he should've won this thing going away. The fact that Coach was so adamant about having Sophie in the F3 was stunningly bone-headed, on par with Russell believing the likes of Natalie, Sandra and Parvati were all 'easy to beat' in a jury vote. Had Coach been in the end with literally anyone in his alliance other than Sophie, he wins since the rest of Upolu was Goat City USA. You could argue Coach saw the value in keeping Sophie and Albert since they were the alliance's only chance of beating Ozzy in a challenge, but that ignores the fact that Upolu basically gave Ozzy two byes at Redemption Island by having him face Edna and Cochran. If you send Sophie against Ozzy at one of those last two RI challenges (particularly the vertical Rubik's Cube thing that Edna lost), she stands a more than good chance of beating him there and preventing him from ever re-entering the game. If Coach was smart, he would've had Sophie voted out at F6 and thus ensured that either she or Ozzy would be out for good.

Skillset: Good at both physical and mental challenges; winning that last challenge and ousting Ozzy literally clinched Sophie the game. Loyal, within the Survivor context. Shrewd about making moves or, perhaps more accurately, when NOT to make moves, as Sophie realizes early on that she was in a pretty strong situation and thus never joined in Albert's crazy plans to shake up the game. Great poker face, since apparently she isn't religious but was able to fake it enough so as to not be cast out by Brandon/Coach/Albert as a heathen.

Her alleged weakness would be her "condescending" personality, as Whitney put it, and the fact that she apparently came off as somewhat entitled. To this end, Sophie's little crying spell at the F5 tribal council actually helped her a lot, since it brought back the curtain a bit and made her seem more human than hypocrites like Albert and Coach. But really, Sophie's "condescension" actually makes me think more of her as a player since she still won. The golden rule of Survivor is to make sure you're at the final tribal council alongside players who aren't as liked and/or respected as you. Survivor's iceman, the Dexter-esque Brian Heidik, knew he'd eventually have to stab his allies in the back to make it to the end, so he made sure he was in the F2 with the even-more-unlikable Clay Jordan. In Sophie's case, even if she wasn't quite aware of how her attitude was coming off to the other players, it ultimately didn't matter since she positioned herself to be at the end with Albert and Coach. An "it's just business" attitude is much preferable to a jury than Albert and Coach's two-faced, "I play this game with honour but sorry guys, I'll have to vote you out anyway" attitudes.

(And AGAIN, as Cochran noted while voting for Coach, had Coach just owned his gameplay, he still might've won. Had Coach said, 'I turned your perceptions of me from previous seasons against you and got to the end,' he would've won a lot more respect as a strategist. Why the hell am I talking about Coach so much? Damn, this slanted Survivor editing is even getting to me.)

Could They Do It Again?
: If Sophie ever plays this game again, I think she'd stand a very strong chance of making another deep run. An underrated factor to Sophie's success is that, if you read her post-game interviews, she's basically the female Cochran. She's a big Survivor fan except, unlike Cochran, she was smart enough to not wear her fandom on her sleeve and actually prepared for the game, whereas Cochran seemed stunned to realize that Survivor took place outdoors. Sophie is also smart enough to adjust her game a second time around, based on how she perceives she's being perceived by her new tribemates.

Sophie's MO this time was a blend of the Amber/Natalie Strategy (be seen as the good cop next to a more outwardly aggressive and less likeable player) combined with Heidik's cool detachment. That's a hell of a combination. Going back to my initial ranking of Survivor winners, I can't put Sophie in the top tier of Sandra/Parvati/Brian, but I'd definitely slot her amongst Tina/Earl/Chris in the next tier of champions. That's no worse than #7 all-time and perhaps even as high as fourth. Very impressive for a woman whose screentime was largely shafted in favour of yet more goddamn footage of Ozzy climbing a tree.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Xmas, Calvin & Hobbes

There are few pop culture items I miss more than Calvin & Hobbes (greatest comic strip of all time, hands-down) and yet I respect the hell out of Bill Watterson for his decision to not just end the strip, but to not even slightly revisit bringing it back in any form. Watterson simply felt the strip had run its course and wanted to go out on top. To that end, he also has refused any attempts to license the characters for any sort of merchandise, animation, films, etc. You have to admire that kind of principle...even if I secretly think a well-done Calvin & Hobbes film would be amazing. It'd have to be animated (no real seven-year-old kid could properly play Calvin and having him interact with a CGI Hobbes would look goofy) but there is no shortage of lovely animation that could be generated from the original Watterson artwork. Put someone like Brad Bird at the helm of this project and I'd be first in line at the theatre.

Or, hey, forget Brad Bird, maybe get these animators to do it. I'll take even the most minor new C&H-related material so finding this video was like finding the Holy Grail in my dishwasher. This analogy doesn't really work since I would've theoretically found the Grail to put it in the washer in the first place, but....damn.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's Always Funny


It's rare for a show to last for seven seasons on the air. It's even rarer than a show is still watchable in its seventh season. It's NIGH-UNHEARD OF that a show's seventh season is actually its best one, and yet, I think this is what has happened with the latest series of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Thirteen episodes, twelve of them gems (we'll get to the non-gem in a moment) and really, no signs whatsoever that this show is anywhere near slowing down.

If you've never seen IASIP before, good lord, drop what you're doing and hit up Netflix. The show can and has been most easily described as "Seinfeld, except with sociopaths." I've always felt this description somewhat undercuts just what terrible people the Gang are. The Seinfeld crew were already more or less sociopaths --- the IASIP Gang take it to a far more depraved and terrifying level. On Seinfeld, you were always somewhat rooting for those characters to win; on ISAIP, you're whole-heartedly rooting for the characters to lose since my god, imagine a world in which these people were successful?

Things kicked into high gear even before the season started when word broke that Rob McElhenney had put on 50 pounds solely because he thought it would be funny if Mac was suddenly a big fat guy. Just amazing. Mac's outfits for the year were nothing but comically tight t-shirts and Hawaiian shirts, topped off by the thick beard that made Mac look like a foul-mouthed, rage-filled young Orson Welles. Actually, keeping with the Welles theme, imagine this except stretched over 6.5 hours.

Yet, despite the fact that McElhenney risked his health for the sake of the show, I'm going to have to split the season's MVP award between Kaitlin Olson and Glenn Howerton. The Reynolds siblings were in nothing less than rare form all year round. There is no good reason why Olson doesn't have at least a couple of Best Supporting Actress Emmys already, and Howerton just gets funnier and funnier as Dennis' pure sociopathic nature becomes more and more apparent over the run of the show. Mac takes third place, while Charlie Day (while still as funny as ever) comes in last behind Danny DeVito. Why Frank in fourth?

* "RUM HAM!"
* A heavily made-up, sweaty, panicked Frank trying to assure a gymnasium full of people that he isn't a pedophile
* "I'm going to whip this little bitch in the face!"
* Relating the entire history of the Gang to a group of confused Asian tourists while in the midst of hijacking their tour boat

These are among Frank's all-time greatest moments, and the fact that they're all in the same season is enough to let him escape the Character Ranking basement. Sorry, Charlie. And, the fact that Frank had such an amazing year and only finished fourth is a testament to just how hilarious the entire cast continues to be in these roles.

So, the weak link. The "Frank's Brother" episode was unique amongst IASIP episodes in that for 80% of it, it wasn't trying to be funny. It was a legitimately straight-forward tale of Frank's early life and it was odd to watch. It was 22 minutes of waiting for the other shoe to drop, yet as presented, it actually gave Frank (heretofore one of the most scheming, evil bastards on planet Earth) a softer side in his younger days. I wouldn't call it a bad episode, per se, but…man, it was just weird. I can't be entirely mad about any episode that features Lance Reddick, though, and one lacklustre episode doth not a season ruin. The White Album had 'Revolution 9,' after all.

Best episode? Well, I'm partway there already, let's rank all 13 from bottom to top:

13. Frank's Brother
12. The Storm Of The Century
11. The High School Reunion Part 2
10. Sweet Dee Gets Audited
9. How Mac Got Fat
8. Frank Reynolds' Little Beauties
7. The Anti-Social Network
6. Thunder Gun Express
5. The Gang Goes To The Jersey Shore
4. Frank's Pretty Woman
3. Chardee MacDennis: The Game Of Games
2. The High School Reunion Part 1
1. The Gang Gets Trapped

The top three, in particular, rank amongst the best episodes from all seven seasons. The first part of "High School Reunion" has what I'd say is probably the single biggest laugh of the entire series for me, and since I wouldn't dream of spoiling it, I'll just say it was 'the nametag scene' and leave it at that. That was a legitimate tears-of-laughter moment that had seven years of buildup behind it.

Parks & Recreation is still pound-for-pound the best comedy on TV (and arguably the best show), while Community is easily the most inventive comedy on TV. In terms of pure laughs, though, both shows will be hard-pressed to top what IASIP did. And, it will be a tough nut to crack for P&R and Community -- great shows as they are -- to still be this good in their seventh year. Yeah, that's right, I'm presuming Community can somehow make it to a seventh season. Believe. #SEVENseasonsandamovie

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Week With Marilyn


It's time to look at this Michelle Williams thing. In the history of the Academy Awards, 162 performers have received at least three nominations for acting. Say what you will about the Oscars and lord knows they take some weird swings and misses…but they don't take three swings and misses on one person. It's safe to call anyone with three nominations a legitimately good-or-better actor.

With nods already in the bag for Blue Valentine and Brokeback Mountain, and a third nomination looking very likely (hell, maybe even a win) in line for My Week With Marilyn, some will argue that I'm very late to the party in acknowledging that Williams is already a hell of an actress. This is no doubt true, but I'm just continually stunned by the fact that seven years ago, Williams was known as nothing more than the weak link of the Dawson's Creek cast. Now she has two-going-on-three Oscar nominations?! What an upset. It's not like the Van der Beek/Holmes/Jackson triforce of power were known for being great actors or anything, but given how little focus Williams got in comparison to those three, this is like if Ringo had been the Beatle with the best solo career.

And make no mistake, Williams is a legitimately terrific actress, MWWM being the latest example. Given the supremely tough challenge of playing Marilyn Monroe, Williams could have chosen to just do an imitation (sticking to the Monroe personality quirks that we all know from 60 years of pop culture) or she could've gone the other familiar route of playing 'Norma Jeane,' in order to portray the 'real woman' behind the persona and then basically done whatever she wished. Instead, Williams goes for about a half-and-half mix of the Monroe persona and another character that basically represents a distilled "Marilyn" that is more human yet no less charismatic and attractive.

It's a tough balancing act, particularly since the movie is all about how this budding filmmaker named Colin meets and has a relationship with Marilyn while she was shooting 'The Prince And The Showgirl' in England in 1957. So Williams has to play her take on the role while still being "Marilyn Monroe" enough to live up to the fantasy image of the Colin Clark character. Yet Williams is more than capable of the task and does about as well as one can while playing one of the most well-known figures of the 20th century. Off the top of my head, only Jamie Foxx's Ray Charles or Morgan Freeman's Nelson Mandela have delivered comparable biopic performances in recent memory. It's an easy thing to screw up --- Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Will Smith as Muhammad Ali both didn't *really* hit the mark as their targets, but were still applauded for coming reasonably close.

Four paragraphs in, I should probably mention that MWWM as an overall film is pretty average. Clark is such an empty vessel that nobody really cares about his week as Monroe's companion. In a way, Williams' performance sort of works against the story in this respect; she's so alluring that the movie's premise of "gee, what would it be like to spend a week with Marilyn Monroe?" is immediately answered as, "well duh, it's awesome." Then again, another actress in the lead role likely wouldn't have been as good, dooming the whole project to the level of a second-rate TV movie.

Much in the way that Homer woke up in the dead of night screaming about how he hates Ted Koppel, I think I had a similar realization about Kenneth Branagh. I just do not like the guy's acting style. Other than his performances in Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, I have not enjoyed a single Branagh performance. He played a terrible Woody Allen avatar in Celebrity, muffed the hard-to-muff role of Professor Lockhart in the second Harry Potter movie, and just when you think Branagh at least has Shakespeare in his wheelhouse, he hams it up as Iago in the Oliver Parker adaptation of Othello. In MWWM, he plays Laurence Olivier and does exactly what Williams doesn't do with Monroe. Whereas Williams is playing a character, Branagh basically just goes a MadTV-caliber impression of Olivier's voice and calls it a day. It boggles my mind that Branagh himself actually has a bit of Oscar buzz for this role. Actually, let me check the records…ok, if he did get nominated, it would only be Branagh's second nomination --- after Henry V, which I impossibly have yet to watch --- so my whole "actors with three Oscar nods are the tops" premise wasn't just blown to bits within this very post. If Branagh is nominated over my man John Hawkes (who is just phenomenal in 'Martha Marcy May Marlene'), there will be hell to pay.

So in short, My Week With Marilyn has a great lead performance, lovely British scenery, nice period costumes and art direction, and that's about it. Williams' shot at an actual win on Oscar night will be hampered by the lower quality of her picture, but given that nobody is exactly going crazy about Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close's entry), The Iron Lady (can even Meryl Streep make Margaret Thatcher sympathetic?), Viola Davis in The Help (despite its high likelihood of a Best Picture nomination) or Young Adult (Charlie Theron's entry, which I REALLY still want to see), Williams will still carry a lot of momentum into the race. If she does win, I will personally send her $5 if she begins her speech with, "Fuck you, Pacey!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm A Two-Time TIME Person Of The Year!


What a special day. Just five years after TIME named me* their person of the year, I've captured the honour once more. Who knew that my protesting NBC's removal of 'Community' from its schedule would get me recognized (again!) by a prestigious magazine that I read every single time I go to the dentist.

Just getting one POTY title is a great achievement, but twice?? That puts me in truly elite company. Other multiple-time winners include Franklin Roosevelt (a three-timer!), Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, Deng Xiaoping, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, George Marshall, Richard Nixon (ugh), Ronald Reagan (yikes), George W. Bush (eep) and....uh, Joseph Stalin. Okay, well, the award isn't foolproof. Also, given that TIME's Person Of The Year in 1969 was "The Twenty-Five And Under Generation," I guess that means most of the modern winners were also two-timers, and Clinton is now also a three-timer. Though if you ask Hillary, he's still just a two-timer! /Leno joke

I promise to live to TIME's high standards by doing nothing for the next five years in order to give others a chance to catch up. Then I'll win my third honour in 2016 when TIME awards, I dunno, 'Bald People' or 'Bloggers' or 'People Who Dip Chocolate Chip Cookies Into Apple Sauce' as its winner.

* = "You pressed 'you,' referring to me. That is incorrect. The correct answer is 'you.' "

Saturday, December 10, 2011

UFC 140 (In Toronto!) Predictions


* Tito Ortiz over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, decision
"Little Nog" has lost two in a row and very easily could've lost three in a row were it not for a dodgy judge's decision win over Jason Brilz. He really hasn't looked impressive for a long time. So if I'm putting this much stock in recent results, why am I picking Noguiera to lose to Tito Ortiz, who is 1-5-1 in his last seven fights? In a word, ring rust. I often pick against fighters who are coming off long layoffs; basically, anything more than 10 months away from fighting is a red flag for me. Since this is such a factor in my fight-picking logic, I'm reversing it in Ortiz's favour here since Ortiz is on a regular schedule for the first time in years. Due to injuries and being picky over opponents, Ortiz fought just once per year from 2007-2010. It looked like he was becoming a ceremonial fighter. This bout with Nogueira, however, is Tito's third in a six-month span. For as much flack as Ortiz has taken in recent years, the fact that he's actually now training and competing on a regular basis can only be a good thing. This might go down as one of my dumbest-ever predictions in hindsight ("Mark, you seriously picked Tito Ortiz to win a fight in 2011?!") but what the hell, I'll go with Tito for literally the first time ever.

* Claude Patrick over Brian Ebersole, decision
Ebersole is 9-0 since September 2008, Patrick is 13-0 since April 2005 (with, admittedly, a couple of long layoffs in between fights). All things considered, this is surprisingly the toughest fight to predict on the card --- two mid-level guys, both on good runs, records a bit padded from years of fighting in lower-tier MMA orgs in Canada and Australia, looking for one breakthrough performance that might net them a contender's bout. It's basically a coin flip so I'm taking Patrick because he's from Toronto. Never let it be said that I'm not a homer.

* Frank Mir over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, KO, R2
"Big Nog" is coming off the most emotional result of his career, a first-round KO of Brendan Schaub at the UFC's debut event in Rio that maybe saved Nogueira from being cut (speaking of Nogueiras fighting for their jobs...) and gave him a huge win in his home country. Had Nogueira chosen to retire right there on the spot, it would've been a storybook ending to a legendary career. But, he's still fighting and I'm thinking reality is about to interject itself. Mir already has one brutal knockout over Nogueira in a fight that many considered a fluke at the time -- Nog was suffered from a staph infection and couldn't properly train -- but I dunno, it's possible Nogueira's jaw could still be cracked. Schaub couldn't do anything with it, but Mir is a good enough striker to hang with all but the heaviest-handed of heavyweights. (That was the most Mike Goldberg-ish sentence I've ever written.) I'd be a lot of fun to see Nogueira win again, but I suspect Mir gets another win over the future HOFer. Is it a bad sign that I'm picking against two guys known as 'Nog' during the Xmas season?

* Mark Hominick over Chan-Sung Jung, KO, R2
I probably should just refer to Jung as 'the Korean Zombie' at all times because a) that's a great nickname and b) there are probably a lot of halfwit MMA fans out there who don't actually know his real name but love his fights. For sheer entertainment value, it doesn't much better than Jung. Besides the nickname, he's one of those nonstop, all-out fighters that almost always puts on a great fight. You never know what you'll see in a Zombie fight, and that includes him pulling out a goddamn Twister submission in his last match. All this being said, Jung is not a top-level featherweight by any stretch and a legit title contender like Hominick should more or less have his way with him. It'll be an awfully fun 5-8 minutes while it lasts, though.

* Jon Jones over Lyoto Machida, TKO, R3
The subtitle here could be "Past Juggernaut vs. Current Juggernaut." Just over two years ago, it was Machida who was riding high as the unbeaten light-heavyweight champ that nobody could figure out. Of course, Machida's dominance ended in rough fashion at the hands of Shogun Rua and now the Dragon is only getting another title shot due to a Rashad Evans injury. While Machida isn't a deserving challenger by recent form (sketchy decision over Shogun, brutal knockout loss to Shogun, sketchy decision loss to Rampage Jackson, blowout win over Randy Couture), he's still a tremendous fighter and a big challenge to Jones.

Just like how Alexander cut through the Gordian Knot with his sword, the way to figure out Machida is simply plow right into his defence (like Shogun's punch) or at least contain him with cage-control and dirty boxing, as Rampage did. Jones may be able to do this with his much-superior wrestling; while Machida has a black belt in BJJ, he has surprisingly few submission wins in his career. Could we see a 25-minute Georges St. Pierre special from Jones tonight? Possible, though I think Jones' ground-and-pound is vicious enough that if he gets a few good shots in on Machida, that might be enough to end it.

Of course, I've just analyzed this all from the 'how will Jones beat Machida' end since trying to figure how Machida can beat Jones is difficult since nobody's done that yet.* The book on Jones is that his chin is still untested, so Machida could replicate his strategy against (the then-unbeaten) Rashad Evans and possibly overwhelm him with strikes if he finds an opening. Evans, however, is built like a normal human, whereas Jones is some lanky hybrid between pterodactyl and man. As elusive as Machida is, he just simply might not be able to get close enough to land anything of consequence on Jones. I'm guessing the Jon Jones riddle goes unsolved for yet another event and the champ retains. This would set up either the long-awaited Jones vs. Evans fight, or possibly Jones vs. Dan Henderson, which would also be fun.

Undercard….
* Jared Hamman over Constantinos Philippou, KO, R2
* Krzysztof Soszynski over Igor Pokrajac, decision
* John Cholish over Mitch Clarke, TKO, R2
* John Makdessi over Dennis Hallman, KO, R3
* Walel Watson over Yves Jabouin, submission, R1
* Nik Lentz over Mark Bocek, decision
* Rich Attonito over Jake Hecht, submission, R1

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Community Vs. Trivia

It's just about gotten to the point where I would watch the cast of Community do anything, be it actually star in their TV show, play a game of pop culture Trivial Pursuit, solve mysteries, arrange a delightful rose garden, etc. Also, I don't want to brag, but...I would've done prett-ay, prett-ay, prett-ay well on those questions.

"Memoirs Of An Invisible Man: The Video Game"....ha!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

NHL Realignment

The NHL's current divisional setup was probably the fairest they could've achieved. While the geography wasn't a total fit, it was the best that could be done to keep an even 15 teams in each conference and thus give everyone an even playing field in the quest for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Unfortunately, while the NHL's new alignment plan fixes the geography and is somewhat "fairer" in terms of everyone-plays-everyone, it fails in the most simplest of terms --- it is almost inevitable that every single season, at least one deserving team will be hosed out of a spot in the playoffs.

The NHL has cooked up an amplified version of the old four-division setup, getting rid of conferences altogether. Here are the new alignments….

* Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

* Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg

* Carolina, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

* Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto

Using the Maple Leafs as an example, their schedule will now feature a home-and-home series against every non-conference opponent (23 teams x 2 = 46 games) and six games against each conference foe (6 teams x 6 = 36 games) so the 82-game schedule will be retained.

(It's different if you're in an eight-team conference. The Jets, for instance, have 44 out-of-conference games and 38 against conference rivals. So, the Jets will play each divisional rival at least five times each, and it will rotate each year as to which of the others they'll play an extra time.)

This isn't the big issue, however. The issue is that the conferences will be maintained for the playoffs. So now, to qualify for the postseason, you have to be one of the top four teams in your conference, rest of the league be damned. The first two rounds will feature intra-conference tournaments, with the winners then advancing to the Stanley Cup semi-finals, where they'll be reseeded (presumably by point total) for the final four.

Now, as a Leafs fan, I'm somewhat pleased that we now only have to worry about finishing ahead of three teams to get a shot at the Cup, rather than seven teams. But in the grander sense, are you kidding me with this horsecrap?! The NHL has created the AL East writ large, where quality teams would simply miss out due to their division, rather than their not being one of the actual best teams in their sport. You might argue, "If a team isn't good enough to finish ahead of four others, why should they earn a spot in the playoffs?" Because it's a SIXTEEN-TEAM FIELD! If you have five superb teams in one conference, is it fair that one of them gets omitted while laser teams from other conferences sail in?

Let's not even ignore the numbers game of the fact that the teams in the eight-team conferences are doubly-hard done by, since they have to beat an extra opponent to reach the playoffs. The solution could be that the NHL eventually plans to even things out via expansion teams….but good lord, the NHL doesn't even have 30 stable markets now. If the NHL knows of two great potential markets, let's move the Coyotes or Panthers or someone rather than stretching the league even thinner.

Realignment took place in large part because the NHL simply has too many teams in the Eastern time zone. It's been no secret that the Red Wings have been complaining for years about playing in the Western Conference, plus several other Western teams don't care for all the travel through the Pacific, Central AND Eastern time zones. I admit, as a Leafs fan, I'm so used to seeing our rivals on a regular basis that I overlook the fact that it's hard for, say, a Minnesota Wild fan to really rev up some hatred for the Oilers, Flames, Canucks and Avalanche. (Wild fans' only consolation is the team's gorgeous jerseys). The problem with going to a more geographically-centered format, though, is that it requires a shakeup every time a team is moved. If the Coyotes moved to Quebec City, for instance, I presume the solution would just be to have Quebec slotted into the Leafs' conference, so they'd suddenly have eight teams while the new 'Western' conference is reduced to seven. Still, not fair.

Still, this realignment could be a good thing in the long run since I suspect the re-formatted playoffs could be quickly revamped. How quickly? Oh, just about the first time a team like the Wings, Bruins, Rangers, Leafs, Blackhawks, Flyers or Capitals are the ones screwed by missing out on a postseason spot. Then you'll see Gary Bettman scrambling to cover his ass like there's no tomorrow.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Old Toronto (With Pretty Pictures!)


BlogTO has a one-stop shop for a varied archive of photographs from throughout Toronto's history, chronicling the city's architecture and evolution over the decades. It's a very cool piece to check out, though admittedly I'm totally in the tank for these "here's how we were" kind of features.

Very relieved to learn that my townhouse isn't on the site of an old industrial waste plant. Instead, it was just built over an ancient native burial ground. Nothing bad could possibly come of this!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Anonymous review

Anonymous is one of those cases where I wish I wasn't really as *into* movies as I am. Once I watch a film, I'll generally check it out online to see what the critics are saying, what the buzz is, get background about the production, etc. This is the inverse of what I do before seeing a movie, which is try to avoid hearing about it in order to avoid spoilers and whatnot. Obviously I'll carry biases going into a screening based on expectations, but I always try to keep a clean mental slate whenever a film starts.

In the case of Anonymous, I'd seen the trailer, which prompted this analysis back in May….

This is the definition of bittersweet if you're an English major. Hollywood is making a movie, titled "Anonymous," about the Shakespeare authorship question, one of the most fascinating mysteries in all of literature. Frankly, it's long overdue.

Problem #1: The film centers solely on the theory that Edward de Vere (the Earl of Oxford) is the true author. Okay, well, that kind of gives short shrift to the other candidates (Christopher Marlowe, William Stanley, Sir Francis Bacon and my personal favourite, Henry Neville), but hey, okay, for the sake of a 100-minute film, I can understand the need to streamline things.

Problem #2: This is the trailer. Uh, it looks pretty swordfighty for a movie about playwriting, but still, ok, a movie's got to sell tickets and whatnot. Fair enough.

Problem #3: It's directed by Roland Emmerich. OH FUCK. As in, the guy who directed The Patriot, 2012, Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and a bunch of other shitty action movies. This is a bad, bad, bad sign.

Problem #4: The tagline is "We've all been played." Oh jesus christ.

In short, you can probably skip Anonymous unless you like stupidity. I pity the poor English teachers of the world, who will no doubt be faced with hundreds of essays from students citing this film as a definitive source. "My thesis is how Iago and Othello's relationship is a metaphor for jousting, which Edward de Vere was a champion at (as cited on Wikipedia), since we all know de Vere was really Shakespeare!"

Anyway, my expectations were pretty low, but Anonymous ended up being a thoroughly ludicrous but entertaining film. It's not any stretch to call this Emmerich's best movie, which is a little like noting that a broken clock is right twice a day, but still, I enjoyed it. Vanessa Redgrave and Rhys Ifans (in a dramatic role!) did their best to add gravitas to the theatrics of the plot and Rafe Spall playing Shakespeare as a straight-up bastard was pretty fun. Maybe I'm just a sucker for Elizabethean and/or "Shakespearean" costume dramas, but Anonymous gets a thumbs-up from this guy. Not a full thumb, but maybe the equivalent of three stars out of five. Geez, I would hate to lose two-fifths of my thumb.

The real issue with Anonymous is not the film itself, but more with the odd fact that Emmerich isn't treating his movie as just historical fiction, but rather as the truth. While Anonymous isn't even close to being as good as Back To The Future, imagine if Robert Zemeckis went around saying, "Oh yeah, time travel is real, and our film shows how it would happen." Or if Steven Spielberg claimed Jurassic Park was a literal blueprint for how to clone dinosaurs. We'd think they were nuts. Emmerich, meanwhile, says things like, "That's why everybody in the Stratfordian side is so pissed off because we've called them on their lies."

Did William Shakespeare actually write the plays attributed to him? It's at least possible he didn't --- there are certainly gaps that exist in the public record about Shakespeare and his work, more than you'd think there would be for a playwright of his stature, even one who lived 400 years ago. The authorship question is a fascinating one but it's at best just a sidebar in any study of Shakespeare's work since (let's be honest) the plays and poems were with at least 90% certainty written by William freakin' Shakespeare. I can buy that they may have been somewhat altered or re-edited from the versions that eventually appeared in the First Folio, but the overwhelming amount of evidence suggests the man from Stratford is indeed the man.

And, if Shakespeare didn't write the material, I can sure bet his name didn't end up on the plays thanks to some byzantine conspiracy involving the Royal Family as Anonymous suggests. I was all ready to praise Emmerich for making a good movie but man, the "gotcha, Shakespeare!" attitude just makes him look like a dope. I'll keep this in mind in 2313 when someone makes a movie about how Jeff Goldblum actually directed Independence Day but Emmerich got the credit due to…..MACHINATIONS! *swirls moustache*

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Muppet Stuff

Needless to say, The Muppets was adorable. It's a great trip down memory lane for long-time fans and it'll probably be successful in rebooting the franchise for today's generation. The script was half-tribute to old Muppets projects and half-general "hey, let's put on a show!" plot, but really, any excuse to simply let the Muppets go nuts on stage is appreciated. One of the few criticisms I'd heard about the movie was that it was too fixated on Jason Segel and Walter the 'new' Muppet, but I didn't find this to be the case at all. Segel is smart enough to more or less sideline his character for the middle portion of the movie so we can just focus on Kermit getting the band back together; Segel and Amy Adams and Walter are just supporting players, though Walter does get his big moment as the climax.

I'm not sure why I'm bothering to review this film since it's basically just what you'd expect. If you've ever liked the Muppets, you'll like the new movie. There's no excuse for not seeing it. In the hospital in an iron lung? Have then wheel the iron lung to a theatre. Boom, doctored.

********************

Given that one of the songs is titled "Man Or Muppet" and the overall theme is Walter finding his place within the Muppets collective, it occurred to me watching the film that I'm basically Fozzie Bear. Bad jokes, always wears a hat, bald underneath, and the less said about the body hair the better. There are worse Muppets to be, certainly. Better Fozzie than realizing halfway through the movie that my life and personality exactly reflects that of Rizzo the Rat.

********************

Top Ten Favourite Muppets…
10. Sam the Eagle
8. (tie) Bunsen & Beaker
7. Link Hogthrob
5. (tie) Statler and Waldorf
4 Rowlf
3. Miss Piggy
2. The Swedish Chef
1. Kermit the Frog

I stuck to just characters from The Muppet Show here, keeping in the theme of the post. If it was the Muppet universe in general, you'd better believe some Sesame Street characters would be popping up here. Y'all know how much I dig the Street. Cookie Monster would easily hold down the #2 overall spot, though Kermit would still be on top.

**********************

And, to celebrate my two favourite Muppets, here's a great clip from Sesame Street. I could watch these Kermit/Cookie Monster sketches all day long. This one is particularly golden --- "arrivederci, frog," Kermit's look of disgust as CM is trying to butter him up, "just thought it might be a cookie, off-chance," etc.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beckett and Andre, Hangin' Out

As an English major/childhood pro wrestling fan, this story of the fabulous true friendship between Samuel Beckett and Andre the Giant delighted me to no end. Surely some type of play/film/sitcom/mystery show where they drive around in the truck solving crimes needs to be made from this scenario. I guess you could reference cricket just a bit...perhaps have Andre's catchphrase be "This is a sticky wicket," or have Andre and Sam be accompanied on their adventures by a talking cartoon cricket named Sir Donald.

I think you could have Paul Rudd as Beckett if you added enough old age makeup, since clearly, Jason Segel is the only choice to play Andre. Is "Waiting For Andre" too obvious a title?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Packers Aren't Unbeatable


I don't care if the Packers have a perfect season; I just want them to be perfect in January and February. An unbeaten record would, of course, be awesome and incredible and would be one of the top-20 events of my life --- despite my not, officially, having anything whatsoever to do with it, not counting the good karma from my wearing Packers colours on gamedays --- but, a Super Bowl is infinitely more important.

I'm hedging my bets now since if I was a betting man (which I obviously am, giving that I'm hedging them), I'd say Green Bay will drop at least one game the rest of the season. The team's weakness is the defence, which has a bend-but-not-break philosophy but has been bent really, really far a couple of different times this year. In three of their last four games, the Packers allowed 27 points to Minnesota, 38 to San Diego and now 26 to Tampa Bay, three offences that range from struggling to lousy. GB's ridiculous offense ensured that all three games were still comfortable wins, but even still, a really good team with an above-average offense and who can at least contain Aaron Rodgers definitely has a chance to beat the Packers.

The remaining schedule…

* at Detroit. The Lions' dip in form makes this seem like less of a monstrous game than it did two months ago, but the Lions will still be geeked for this matchup. Thank you, Thanksgiving afternoon scheduling.

* at New York Giants. A big possible playoff preview here. I still have trouble believing this team is actually good, but 6-3 speaks otherwise. New York is a good team that is prone to the occasional stinker (their opening week loss to Washington and their inexplicable home loss to Seattle that sunk many a suicide league pool) but is by and large solid week in and week out. That said, the Giants need 'the good Eli' to show up in top form in order to beat Green Bay since I suspect Rodgers will just feast on New York's garbage secondary. Let's not also discount the fact that if Green Bay beats Detroit in that huge NFC Central game, the Giants could be a bit of a letdown game afterwards. One would think a Super Bowl champion team on a (by beating Detroit) 17-game winning streak would be mentally strong enough to avoid a letdown, but they're only human.

* home against Oakland. And, wins over both the Lions AND Giants would make this one a trap game. The Raiders are tough and can play with anyone but I don't think they're good enough to go into Lambeau Field and beat the Packers.

* at Kansas City. The only gimme left on Green Bay's schedule. Arrowhead Stadium may be a tough road venue and the Chiefs could still be in the playoff hunt thanks to that crappy AFC West, but the Packers shouldn't have any problems winning here.

* home against Chicago. This is the big red flag. The Bears, against all odds, appear to be for real. The 13-3 team that was universally expected to regress has instead stayed tough and are probably a top-five team in the NFL. A Christmas evening game, Green Bay vs. Chicago, mah gawd. The Bears are 6-3 now and another 13-3 record is actually not out of the question -- their remaining schedule is San Diego today, at Oakland, Kansas City, at Denver and the absurd Tim Tebow, Seattle, at Green Bay and then at Minnesota. I doubt they'll run the table but it's at least possible. Wouldn't shock me at all to see the Packers and Bears meet for a third time in the postseason.

* home against Detroit. The rematch against the Lions could be a huge game for both teams, a huge game for just one team or a nothing game that carries bitter feelings for Lions fans. By the time Week 17 rolls around, the Lions could be playing for a playoff spot and the Packers could be playing for a) an unbeaten season and b) home field advantage in the playoffs. Conversely, the Packers could have lost a game but wrapped up home-field so they'd be resting starters against a Lions team gunning for the postseason. Double-conversely, the Pack would have things wrapped up and the Lions could have fallen out of the playoff race altogether. I think only this latter scenario would favour Detroit since even if the Packers had clinched home-field, they'd still want to play hard to keep their divisional rivals out of the postseason.

The other factor for Green Bay: the freakin' 49ers. San Francisco is 9-1 and has this remaining schedule: at Baltimore, at Arizona, at Seattle, home against Pittsburgh and a home-n'-home with St. Louis. Only the Ravens and Steelers games are question marks, so the 49ers look to post (at worst!) a 13-3 record. If they steal just one of those games against Pittsburgh/Baltimore, they'll be 14-2, so Green Bay would have to be at least 15-1 just to get home field. It's possible Green Bay would have the tiebreaker edge if both teams finished 14-2 but I'd rather not leave things up to the vagaries of the NFL's tiebreaking system. Even if the Packers lose the perfect record, they'd still have to play hard for as long as it takes to clinch top spot in the NFC over San Francisco.

With all of this pressure bearing down on them, a perfect record is too much to ask. Not even the most perfect football player ever could help Green Bay go 16-0, not to mention 3-0 in the playoffs. (Unless Curt Hennig could play defense. Which he probably could've, he was perfect, for god's sakes.) I'd almost feel better about Green Bay's Super Bowl chances if they dropped a 'dress rehearsal' game to New York or Chicago, just so the team could focus on resting a few guys and getting 100 percent for their second-round game.

The Super Bowl is the key. It would be absolutely, positively heartbreaking if the Packers pulled a 2007-08 Patriots and went 18-0, only to lose the big one at the end. Hell, if 19-0 is so important, Green Bay has already won 16 in a row dating back to last year --- just win the next three and phone it in against Kansas City. The overall record for consecutive wins is 21, held by the 2003-2004 New England Patriots, but what the hell, let's let the Pats keep that one, Tom Brady doesn't have enough other plaudits. Throw him a bone, which he will pick up with the hand that contains his three Super Bowl rings and his Gisele Bundschen wedding ring. Damn you, Brady.

So there you have it. Even this most fervent of Packer-backers doesn't think an unbeaten season is necessary or even realistic. All that matters is that 14th championship. Mercury Morris and Don Shula can drink more champagne for the time being, Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy just want another ring.

"Mark, was this whole post an elaborate anti-jinx?"

Umm…..

Thursday, November 17, 2011

UFC 139 Picks

* Brian Bowles over Urijah Faber, decision
The winner gets the next crack at bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz, and both men hold losses to Cruz already. Faber, of course, has lost twice to Cruz, once by sub in the WEC four years ago and then by decision last July in Cruz's first UFC bout. You might wonder why Faber is once again in line for a title bout and the short answer is, he's Urijah Faber. He's the most well-known and marketable name in the bantamweight division so of course the UFC will go out of their way to line him up for one final crack at Cruz. It wouldn't surprise to see Faber and Cruz as the coaches on the next TUF season in order to build up the third fight of their trilogy and to get over the bantamweights.

So, with all this in mind, I'm picking Bowles because I think he's just the better fighter right now. Bowles' only loss was to Cruz and that was via a doctor stoppage when Bowles broke his hand in the second round. It's possible BB has what it takes to figure Cruz out, we just haven't seen it yet. Frankly, I think it might be better for the bantamweight division in the long run if more personalities and names besides just Faber and Cruz are promoted. I have no idea what Bowles' personality is like, but why not have him coach a TUF season? A Bowles win and the oncoming train that is Renan Barao could make things very interesting over the next year for the bantams.


* Kyle Kingsbury over Stephan Bonnar, decision
With four wins in a row, you'd think Kingsbury would have drawn someone higher up the food chain than Stephan Bonnar, which is why I'm picking Kingsbury to win. For all the guff Bonnar takes about being a C-level fighter who's kept around as a thank you by the UFC for his part in the original Ultimate Fighter finale, Bonnar is awfully hard to stop. In fact, he's never been stopped --- of his seven losses, five were by decision and the other two were TKO cut stoppages. Now, let's not kid ourselves and say that Bonnar is underrated but at least he deserves some credit for being a tough guy and avoiding getting finished by the likes of Jon Jones, Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin (twice). He can take solace in yet another decision loss here.


* Cung Le over Wanderlei Silva, KO, R1
This fight reminds me of that Simpsons scene when Homer is in hell's ironic punishment division. "So, you like knockouts, huh? Well, how about all the knockouts in the WORLD!" There is a 100 percent chance this fight ends with someone's unconscious head bouncing off the octagon floor. You have Cung Le, the mixed martial artist/former kickboxer/current action movie star who hasn't fought since June 2010 and has recorded all seven of his wins via knockout. Then you have Wanderlei Silva, the MMA legend who has 24 out of 33 wins via knockout and (perhaps more importantly) has an ever-glassening chin due to years of combat fighting. Yes, I realize 'glassening' isn't a word, bear with me. If it wasn't for the fact that Le hasn't fought in so long, I would pick him in an instant --- Silva just can't stand up to anyone who has any semblance of a striking game anymore. I'm still going with Le as my pick but the bottom line is, someone is getting KTFO.


* Rick Story over Martin Kampmann, decision
A real battle of hard-luck fighters here. Kampmann has lost his previous two bouts, both coming via questionable decisions; the bright side for Kampmann is if he loses here, the controversial nature of his losing streak will probably earn him one more shot in the UFC. Story stepped up on short notice to face Nate Marquardt in the main event of a Fight Night card in June. Unfortunately for Story, Marquardt dropped out due to his infamous lack of medical clearance the day before the show, and Story then was unprepared for substitute opponent Charlie Brenneman and lost a decision. Story had a six-fight win streak going before that loss, and I think he has somewhat turned a corner in his career where he can thought of as a legit lower-level guy in the upper-tier. (What a backhanded compliment!) Kampmann will be outwrestled to another decision loss, though maybe at least this one will be more straight-forward.


* Shogun Rua over Dan Henderson, submission, R3
Since losing to Anderson Silva in March 2008, Henderson is 6-1, with the only loss coming when he had a jacked-up back and lost a five-round decision to Jake Shields. Coming off his whipping of the legendary Fedor Emelianenko last July, Hendo is on top his game and back in the UFC. If he beats Shogun, another title shot is his for the taking.

So, why am I picking Shogun? In a word, I think Shogun is healthy. To go back to Shogun's past history of major knee surgeries, his first fight post-surgery is a loss or a near-loss (Forrest Griffin in 2007, the gas-fest against Mark Coleman in 2009, Jon Jones in March), his second fight is a knockout win (Chuck Liddell in 2009 and Griffin in August) and then by the third fight, he's back to being 'the old Shogun.' We saw the old Shogun beat Lyoto Machida and then robbed by the judges when they met on my birthday in 2009, and if that guy shows up on Saturday, that guy can beat Dan Henderson. Shogun in top form is arguably the top light-heavyweight EVER, and I would love to see a totally fit Rua get another shot at Jon Jones.

I see this going like Henderson's bout with Anderson Silva. Hendo will try to outwrestle Rua and take him down, but sooner or later, Shogun will catch him with a strike and then get a sub for the victory. I sound pretty confident in this result but (believe it or not!) I'm wrong about these things sometimes, so Henderson certainly has the tools to win or get a knockout himself. This is a fantastic, near-legendary matchup that I can't believe is only happening for the first time now and not years ago in PRIDE. I guess it'd be kind of funny if this one (like a certain heavyweight title bout) also ended in an 80-second knockout but at least if it happens here, we'll have enjoyed a full night of action beforehand. Well, wait, those of us in Canada did, since our version of the UFC's FOX broadcast featured the awesome Ben Henderson vs. Clay Guida bout. Man, it's great to be a canuck.


Undercard...
* Michael McDonald over Alex Soto, decision
* Chris Weidman over Tom Lawlor, TKO, R2
* Miguel Torres over Nick Pace, decision
* Danny Castillo over Shamar Bailey, decision
* Rafael dos Anjos over Gleison Tibau, submission, R2
* Seth Baczynski over Matt Brown, submission, R2
* Ryan Bader over Jason Brilz, decision

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Liam Neeson = Comic Genius

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's new series, Life's Too Short (starring Warwick Davis) debuted on the BBC and obviously if it's anything to close to The Office or Extras, it will be pure gold. This promo clip featuring Liam Neeson is a great start. It might even be up there with the legendary Patrick Stewart cameo from Extras, which I'm linking to again because it's just that fantastic.



Friday, November 11, 2011

The Big Fight



Cain Velasquez hasn't fought in over a year thanks to shoulder surgery. While unbeaten and the world heavyweight champion, Velasquez's chin has been a bit of a question mark given that Cheick Kongo (admittedly a good striker) was able to wobble him in a few times in their 2009 bout. Cain overcame that by taking Kongo down and controlling him with wrestling and ground-and-pound en route to a comfortable decision victory, but still, one wonders what would happen if Cain got rocked and then found himself on the mat with, say, a BJJ brown belt?

Junior Dos Santos has a BJJ brown belt but we've never seen him use it, as all seven of his UFC victories have come via decisions, knockouts and one 'submission' from Mirko Cro Cop, who gave it up when Junior's punches broke his orbital bone. While there's no real reason to doubt that Dos Santos is good on the ground, we still haven't seen how effective his MMA submission game actually is. It's also worth noting that while Dos Santos packs a mighty wallop, he hasn't been able to finish Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin in his previous two fights, though he gave both men a hefty beating. Nelson and Carwin are tough, sure, but JDS didn't look at dominant facing higher-caliber UFC heavyweights. In fact, Dos Santos looked a bit winded as both of those fights went into the third round.

So you have long layoff and possible weak chin vs. question mark of a ground game and cardio issues. I'm focusing on the negatives since that's more interesting than just saying these are clearly the two best heavyweight fighters in the world, which they are, and why Saturday's fight is going to be such a huge tossup. I THINK, if all things were equal, I'd favour Velasquez because he can outwrestle Junior into a third round and beyond, perhaps tiring the Brazilian out. However, that year of ring rust is a big worry for me. I hate picking guys who have been out of action a long time, especially when that layoff is ended by facing the undisputed top contender for your championship.

Saturday's heavyweight title fight between Velasquez and Dos Santos is the biggest fight in UFC history. It will mark the UFC's network television debut and the entire show is (theoretically) just the one fight. So yeah, just a little bit of pressure on the guys to make things exciting, eh? This could put even more pressure on Velasquez, since his path to victory might come via some Randy Couture-esque dirty boxing and holding his opponent against the cage wall. It isn't the most exciting strategy in the world and wouldn't be what either UFC or FOX would like to see in this huge primetime debut. If Cain feels in any way pressured to keep things "exciting" and forced out of his gameplan, that would be very, very unfortunate.

Man, again I'm focusing on a negative when this is a legitimately fantastic matchup, one of the greatest in MMA history. You could hardly have a bigger potential fight for the UFC's first venture into network primetime. There's a good argument to be made that the epic Forrest Griffin/Stephan Bonnar fight on the first Ultimate Fighter finale 'made' the UFC as a legitimate televised sport, and if Velasquez/Dos Santos is even in the ballpark of that match, this will be a bonanza of a night for mixed martial arts.

Prediction: screw it, Velasquez's long absence scared me off. I'm picking Dos Santos via KO in the second round.


Undercard

Allegedly the UFC is sticking to the plan of just showing the main event on FOX and leaving the entire undercard to the internet. I find this hard to believe. Say that there's an undercard fight that features 5-10 minutes of furious action and a crazy finish; you're telling me the UFC and FOX wouldn't show that bout if Cain/Junior ends with a quick first-round finish? Especially the Henderson vs. Guida fight, which is a #1 contender's match for Frankie Edgar's lightweight title. It boggles the mind that this important fight is relegated to an under-undercard, rather than on PPV. Hell, it's a better fight than Mark Munoz vs. Chris Leben, and that one headlined the free UFC 138 on Spike last weekend. Munoz/Leben was a very good fight but still, mind-boggling.

* Cub Swanson over Ricardo Lamas, KO, R3
* Clay Harvison over DaMarques Johnson, submission, R2
* Robert Peralta over Mackens Semerzier, decision
* Norifumi Yamamoto over Darren Uyenoyama, KO, R1
* Pablo Garza over Dustin Poirier, decision
* Mike Pierce over Paul Bradley, decision
* Matt Lucas over Aaron Rosa, KO, R2
* Cole Escovedo over Alex Caceres, submission, R1
* Ben Henderson over Clay Guida, submission, R2….Guida's wrestling and lay-and-pray style will be neutralized by Henderson, who will eventually catch him in a triangle or something.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Have The Muppets Host The Oscars



So now that Eddie Murphy has pulled out of hosting the Academy Awards and Brett Ratner has exposed himself as a dumbass (I know, right? What a shocker! The director of X-Men 3 turns out to be a dope.…who saw that coming?!), this spring's Oscar ceremony is suddenly having to start from scratch. Brian Grazer has already been brought in as the show's new producer but since the hosting gig is obviously more high-profile, that's where everyone is focusing their attention.

Now, I'll be honest, I love watching the Oscars just because it's The Oscars. Outside of the opening number and monologue, the host usually doesn't bring much to the actual show itself. Their duties the rest of the time are just to introduce people and maybe participate in one or two more skits over the course of the night, so even if the host is terrible (i.e. James Franco), their spotlighted portion of the ceremony is surprisingly small. So, frankly, the host isn't a drawing card for me personally, though I realize I'm in the minority on this one. I was interested to see if Murphy could bring back some of his old 1980's mojo to the job but if he hadn't, it certainly wouldn't have made or broken the show for me.

Given Grazer's lengthy career and number of major stars he's worked with in the past, there's no shortage of hosting options. They could bring back a former host (Billy Crystal has apparently already turned it down, but you could also go the route of Steve Martin, Ellen Degeneres, Hugh Jackman or Jon Stewart again), bring in someone like Neil Patrick Harris who's proven adept at hosting every other awards show on TV, or perhaps Grazer brings in the big gun of Tom Hanks, who can do comedy, bring gravitas and is Mr. Academy Award already. Oscar host seems like a natural move for Hanks as he settles into the "beloved Hollywood legend" portion of his career.

But, to paraphrase that guy from Blazing Saddles….never mind that shit, here comes Gonzo! I am 1000% behind the mounting online campaign to have the Muppets host the Academy Awards.

Talk about a perfect way to totally escape the stink of the Ratner controversy. The Muppets have the new movie out, the characters are universally beloved, and virtually every plot in Muppets history is about the gang putting on a show --- what better way to cap that off than to have them put on the biggest show in the business?

The possibilities are endless. The Swedish Chef cooking the food for the after-show party. Statler and Waldorf up in the balcony, cracking all the jokes that are too mean for Kermit to say. Miss Piggy comparing how she's dressed to the clothes of every actress in the building. Fozzy Bear delivering even hackier jokes than the ones Bruce Vilanch already writes. Rowlf and the Electric Mayhem in the orchestra pit playing people off. Amy Adams and Jason Segel can easily step in for the parts of the show that require actual humans, since it would be odd to have the list of recently-deceased actors be introduced by, say, Sam The Eagle. Then again, watch this clip, dry your eyes and try to tell me the Muppets can't pull off emotional moments.

A Muppet-hosted Oscars is a can't-miss, solid-gold idea. Sure, there's a chance it would somehow offend Sean Penn, but…..wait, that isn't a downside.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Fashion Week

My tan cargo pants are history. Tragedy. After five or six years of constant use, the crotch has been worn out, and since I'm not (immediately) planning on becoming a male exotic dancer, I have no choice but to relegate the ol' tan cargos to the level of "comfy pants I wear around the house but not in public." It's a sad end for these fine pants and I can't help but think they deserve more than to live the rest of their days as glorified pyjamas. It's like seeing Brett Favre finish his career with the Jets and Vikings rather than with Green Bay….and, ironically, both Favre and my cargo pants were undone by their crotches.

I do own, like, three other pairs of cargo pants, so you won't have to worry about my wardrobe suddenly requiring me to wear shorts in November. In my vast experience as a fashion expert, I'd have to say that cargo pants are basically the best garment ever invented. What's not to like? Comfy, reasonably fashionable, not formal by any stretch but you can wear them out to most events and not be laughed at (to your face), and the pockets, my god, the pockets. Laurent Paquette, the inventor of pockets back in the year 103 A.D., can rest in peace knowing that his greatest creation found its perfect mate in cargo pants.

Need a place to put your phone? Lower right leg side pocket. Your wallet? You could go the traditional route of your back pocket, but when you're a stout fellow like myself, sitting on your wallet runs the risk of one's fat ass crushing your credit card digits. Instead, boom, just slide that wallet right alongside your phone or, if you like privacy, just slide it into your lower left leg side pocket! Got a toque that you always wear because your bald head gets cold? Put it in, you guessed it, one of the side pockets! Always like carrying a pen in case you get an idea for your latest hilarious blog post and need to write it down? Carry a pen in your regular pocket! I suppose it's possible the average person might not carry so much crap on their person at any given time, but I was in Cub Scouts for four, hilarious, neckerchief-filled years. It was there that I learned to Be Prepared in case Shere Khan from The Jungle Book suddenly appeared and tried to maul me to death. I think this was the message…all the Jungle Book imagery kind of blended together after a while.

This is all a round-about way of saying that if you're interested in buying a slightly-used pair of tan cargo pants, contact me. They can be yours at the very reasonable price of $89.99 Canadian dollars. This might be technically more than I originally paid for the pants, but now they're VINTAGE. You're not just buying a pair of cargo pants that are somewhat drafty in the testicle area --- you're buying a passport to the halcyon days of 2006 fashion.

Also, this would be a great/awful time for any of my friends to say "Hey Mark, you've had that hole in your crotch for two months, we all just thought it'd be funny to not tell you."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Achtung Covers

I probably won't buy the new Achtung Baby cover album, created to celebrate the original's 20th anniversary. U2's original record is, indubitably, my favourite record of all time. It's certainly one of my deserted island albums. Getting the covers version would be like cheating on your wife with a woman that looked 80% exactly like her --- what's the point?

This isn't to say the covers album isn't good. I've certainly listened to it (thanks YouTube!) and all in all, it's an interesting set of interpretations. Here's the track listing….

1. Nine Inch Nails/Zoo Station
2. U2 (Jacques Lu Cont remix)/Even Better Than The Real Thing
3. Damien Rice/One
4. Patti Smith/Until The End Of The World
5. Garbage/Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
6. Depeche Mode/So Cruel
7. Gavin Friday/The Fly
8. Snow Patrol/Mysterious Ways
9. The Fray/Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World
10. The Killers/Ultraviolet
11. Glasvegas/Acrobat
12. Jack White/Love Is Blindness

If there's a common element it's that several of the covers take the same tack of reducing vibrant songs to somewhat straightforward, more acoustic numbers. Snow Patrol's cover of 'Mysterious Ways' strips all of the danceability from one of the grooviest songs ever, which kinda ruins it. Conversely, Patti Smith's bare bones version of "Until The End Of The World" is quite powerful, giving it a Johnny Cash, American Recordings kind of vibe. Somewhere in between is Nine Inch Nails' cover of "Zoo Station" and Gavin Friday's cover of "The Fly," neither of which has nearly the rocking energy of U2's originals, but they carry JUST enough of that energy to pull it off.

The only tracks on the album I didn't care much for were Snow Patrol's tune and "Even Better Than The Real Thing," which wasn't actually a cover, but rather U2's version heavily remixed by Jacques Lu Cont. They couldn't find a band to do a proper cover? Seriously, I'm not sure Lu Cont's version is even in my list of top five EBTTRT remixes…oh yes, I've heard several! Besides these two songs, most everything falls into the category of acceptably good. Garbage's version of "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," for instance, is exactly what you'd expect a Garbage cover of that song to sound like.

I've highlighted my three favourites below. There's Patti Smith, first of all. The Killers deliver a nice, playful version of "Ultraviolet," which I'd argue is one of U2's most underrated songs and a tune that, for most other bands, would've been a huge hit single rather than a semi-unknown song buried on the back of a record. Then we have what's unsurprisingly my favourite, given my love of the White Stripes. Jack White's "Love Is Blindness" is just raw and yearning and shredding guitars and pure awesome. God, do I ever wish the White Stripes were still active, or if Jack White did a proper solo album instead of submerging himself within the Dead Weather and the Raconteurs or producing covers of Mozart songs by the Insane Clown Posse.

"Until The End Of The World," Patti Smith


"Ultraviolet (Light My Way)," The Killers


"Love Is Blindness," Jack White