Sunday, September 30, 2012

Community Bloopers, Season 3!

Look at Alison Brie these kids and all their foul language!  No wonder this show isn't on cable!  Actually, wait, Community on a cable channel?  Damn, hurry up and cancel this thing NBC, so Showtime can step in as a conquering hero. 

Part One....

Part Two....which isn't embeddable, but it is linkable!

Part Three....

Part Four....

Friday, September 28, 2012

Other People's Writing

I can't be bothered to write things, but these folks did, in some cases delivering even better material than I could've produced on the same subject.  Only in 'some' cases, though.  You'd better believe if I'd had a one-on-one interview with Barack Obama, I would've gotten him to admit that Fred Armisen's impression was lousy.

* Michael Lewis chronicles a few days in the life of President Obama in a piece for Vanity Fair.  Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney will have a reporter follow him around for his daily routine of yelling at the help and swimming around in his money vault.

* The trend of 'perpetual roommates' is examined by Hilary Howard of the New York Times, looking these four single dudes in their late-thirties who have simply chosen to be roommates for years upon years since it's a situation that works well for them.  This is less an article than it is a glimpse into my future, except that two of my roomies are women and I don't have a Captain America shield hanging on my wall….yet.

* We catch up with legendary sports radio host Nanci "The Fabulous Sports Babe" Donnellan, via Grantland's Michael Kruse.  This one had some personal import for me.  My dad and I took a vacation down to Florida in 1995 and made it a point to drive somewhere in the morning for the sole purpose of listening to the Sports Babe on the radio.  Oddly, I've always just presumed she's been broadcasting ever since -- I had no idea her show essentially ended just a few years after that and both her career and personal life carried so many demons.

* I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love oral….histories, especially when they cover one of my favourite TV shows.  GQ's Brian Raftery turns the trick with this oral history of Cheers that I wish could've been roughly 50 pages longer.  One of these days I'll write a blog post doing a Cheers vs. Frasier breakdown to explain why I actually like the spinoff more, but that's another heated debate for another day.

* A profile of the xx (that's the band's actual name) by Grantland's Amos Barshad.  One of the best types of band profiles, in that I knew nothing about the xx going into it but now I wish nothing but the best for these kids.  And that's despite the fact that, after reading this article and checking out a few of their songs, I'm not really into their music. 

* The great (well, maybe just the good) murder mystery of Toronto's University College, retold by Chris Bateman for BlogTO.  My favourite part of this is clearly the guy carving the gargoyles' faces to resemble his arch-enemy, which ranks high on the list of creative vengeance techniques.

* How the chess world is evolving to deal with cheaters (or perhaps vice versa), by Grantland's Dave McKenna.  I've got to say, the tournament organizers seem like they really dropped the ball.  They let the kid actually hold a computer in his hand?!  For "scorekeeping" purposes?  This would be like letting football players call penalties on themselves, which probably would've ended up happening had the referee lockout gone on another couple of weeks.

* My old film professor Chris Lockett rips Margaret Wente a new one over her recent plagiarism scandal.  You'll notice that I'm very clearly identifying these articles as the works of other writers, so yeah, Doc Lockett's anti-plagiarism lessons back in undergrad weren't lost on me.  Then again, I'm also the author of the short-lived Henry Porter & The Wizards Of Pigbumps Academy, which is why all ad revenue from this blog goes directly into J.K. Rowling's pocket.  I still say that lawsuit was bullshit.  Henry Porter wears a monocle, not glasses! 

* Fantastic piece about Edward Payson Weston, a world-famous competitive walker in the 1870's, from Grantland's Brian Phillips.  One caveat: Phillips mentions a recently-written book about Weston very early on in the story, so I'm not sure if this article is really properly Phillips' creation or essentially just a Cliff Notes summary of the book.  (Someone get Margaret Wente on this.)  Either way, it's a great read.

* And hey, while we're talking about the honour system, here's Esquire's Chris Jones detailing how Teller (as in Penn & Teller) is suing to protect the sanctity of one of his signature magic tricks.  I love behind-the-scenes magic stories to no end, and I really love even the faintest possibility that this whole scenario could be some kind of long-form elaborate trick on Teller's part.  If it is real, however, Teller should forget the lawsuit and just bring his grievance to Tony Wonder and the rest of the Magician's Alliance.  They'd sort this Bakardy clown out in no time. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Call It Maybe

As an addendum to yesterday's post about the Packers/Seahawks fiasco, some genius (I'm not even being sarcastic, this is legitimately hilarious) made whipped up the best 'Call Me Maybe' spoof of them all.  Well done, good sir.  This guy will hold the title until we inevitably see George Michael singing CMM to Maeby in the new Arrested Development series.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Awful (or, CAW CAW CAW-ful)

You knew that sooner or later, these replacement NFL referees would make a horrible call that would decide a game, and it's just my bad luck that it happened against the Packers.  That picture says it all --- one ref signalling a touchdown, the other signalling an incomplete pass, and it's all just the perfect image of the incompetence that has marred the first three weeks of the NFL season.

You'll notice that the ref who actually has a clear view of the ball is the one who's saying the pass (the last-second hail mary on the last play of the game, mind you) isn't good, while the ref signalling a touchdown is the one whose view is obscured by the Seattle receiver.  For whatever reason, the touchdown ref's call was the one that was made official on the field, and thus the replay booth couldn't overturn it.  The rule is that calls can only be overturned with 'undisputed' visual evidence, and since it was only 97% obvious that the Green Bay defender had possession of the ball, that little sliver of doubt (the tie goes to the receiver in cases of "simultaneous possession") was all it took for the touchdown call to stand and for the Seahawks to win the game.

This game was probably doomed for the Packers from the get-go.  I was watching it with a group of friends over at a buddy's place, and heard about how my pal Malcolm had broken a mirror while recently helping my friend Matt move, and thus both had since had a run of bad luck.  Matt's a Packers fan and we were watching the game at Malcolm's apartment.  Uh oh.

Secondly, my friend Aron was also there.  The last time Aron and I saw a Packers game together, it was at Real Sports last December as the Packers lost their unbeaten record in a dismal loss to the Chiefs.  To make matters worse, Mal's apartment is literally in the same building as Real Sports.

And finally, the fact that the Packers were playing the Seahawks was also a big red flag.  It wasn't just that the Shawks are a very tough team to face in their home stadium, it was also that my friend Ian had literally just that week chosen Seattle as his new favourite team.  You see, Ian had never grown up with an NFL team and thus decided it was time to follow someone.  He had about a dozen of us actually grade each team on various criteria (Leadership, Uniforms, Tradition, Bandwagon/Underdog Aspect, etc.) and then tally up the points to see who the best choice was.  The winner was Seattle, and really, I was one of the biggest Seahawks proponents.  As I've written before, if I hadn't been a Packers fan, I'd probably have been a Seahawks fan just because I like the city, the stadium, the general inoffensiveness of the team and because I've always wanted to root for a Seattle franchise due to my longtime love of 'Frasier.'  So since Ian didn't end up rooting for another NFC North team, I was all on board with his choice.

In hindsight, what an awful mistake.  While there wasn't much good for Green Bay in this game, Matt was punctuating every big Packers play with his 'packing dance,' which was literally him miming a guy packing boxes into the back of a truck.  So, when Seattle did something good, Ian had no choice to counter with his own dance, namely flapping his arms like a seahawk.  On that bullshit game-ending play, Ian added to his celebration by adding an ear-splitting cry of "CAW! CAW! CAW!" to his arm waving.  While hilarious, it was also infuriating.  That isn't what a seahawk sounds like!  What the hell is a seahawk, anyway?  Sounds made up.

Literally every NFL game this season has been subject to a litany of bad calls by these scab referees.  A comment was made tonight that it's bizarre that a league that has always been obsessed with every detail (be it the length of uniforms to several layers of replay corrections) would just stand by and let their games fall into chaos just over the fact that they won't pay the regular referees a few million extra dollars.  The problem is, however, the NFL's obsessions may not have been with details, but simply with control.  Since the refs won't allow themselves to be controlled, the NFL will just lock them out and then wait as long as it takes to reach a settlement, quality and fairness of its games be damned.  Some men just want to watch the world burn, Master Wayne.

By this point, all bets are off.  The fake referees might call anything at this point.  A defence could line up 14 guys and the refs probably miss it.  Linemen could start delivering Ric Flair-style groin shots to opposing players behind the referees' backs and none would be the wiser.  A replay booth review could take 15 minutes before it's revealed that the official is actually just watching an episode of Big Bang Theory under the hood.  The only thing more absurd than these scenarios and grown men believing in curses affecting football games is that this refereeing situation has reached such rock-bottom levels in only three weeks.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Homer Votes

Don't blame him, he voted for Kodos

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Brushes" With Greatness (?)

I'm not a real celebrity hound, which is possibly why the 'Brushes With Greatness' label just has four entries in over seven years of blogging.  That said, when TIFF is on, and I find myself shopping in the Yorkville area*, I admittedly am keeping an extra eye out to see if any famous faces are out and about.  Well, not an extra eye…it's not like I have a third one hidden in the small of my back or something.  That'd be a weird revelation to just suddenly drop on everyone at this point in my life.

* = it's not nearly as high-rent as 'shopping in Yorkville' usually entails.  I got a new Packers t-shirt from the Nike Store, since the team clearly needed a change in luck following that shitshow of a game against the 49ers.  And it worked!  The new shirt is 1-0 thanks to Jay Cutler's buffoonery last Thursday night.  This is the first new bit of Packers gear I've bought in years, so hopefully Green Bay's recent Super Bowl victory meant that my family's NFL apparel curse has been broken.

The issue was that once I got into celebrity-spotting mode, I couldn't snap out, and thus there were a lot of false alarms over that 90-minute trip to the greater Bay/Bloor area.  To wit…

* "Rachel McAdams" leaving a Starbucks.  Needless to say, this caused the mother of all double takes on my part, but it wasn't her.  The young lady looked maybe 60% like Ms. McAdams, so while it was an honest mistake on my part, my greater mistake was not striking up a conversation anyway.  "Excuse me Miss, has anyone ever told you that you look like Rachel McAdams?"  Who wouldn't be flattered by that?  It's certainly much better than my usual pickup line, which is "CALL THE PARAMEDICS!"  (I say it after I've casually leaned my elbow against the wall to chat the girl up and then slipped and hit my head on the ground.)

* "Nestor Carbonell" in the Chapters bookstore.  Again, it wasn't him, which was a bummer since I know exactly what I'd say if I ever crossed paths with Carbonell.  Wouldn't be about Lost, wouldn't be about the Dark Knight movies, it'd be "Man, it's too bad they canceled 'The Tick,' that show was terrific."  To which Nestor would be all, "Totally bro, that gig was tubular!"  Then we'd fist-bump.  I'm not sure why I presume Nestor Carbonell talks like a surfer, but there you have it.

* "Ed Roberston from Barenaked Ladies" in front of the theatre.  Actually, this one isn't a close call.  I'm 95 percent sure this actually was him.  I just didn't react because…well, it's Ed Robertson.  Also, this isn't really a TIFF celeb sighting since Robertson is one of those low-grade Canadian celebrities you'd expect to see around Toronto on a daily basis.  Like, Jann Arden riding a streetcar or Gordon Lightfoot buying a bag of topsoil at Canadian Tire, or Cynthia Dale in a heated argument with a homeless dude.

Anyway, these non-existent run-ins were completely trumped by my parents, who apparently encounter more celebrities on a daily basis than the staff of TMZ.  Fresh off running into the Edge during a vacation in Ireland, they just got back from a European cruise that featured none other than Willie Aames as the cruise director.  Willie Aames!  Buddy Lembeck from 'Charles In Charge' himself!  Talk about a brush with true greatness.  Actually, Buddy Lembeck in charge of a cruise ship sounds like a CIC plot itself.  He'd end up running it aground but it'd be on a Hawaiian beach, so he, Charles and the Powells would end up partying by the end of the episode.  Lemmmmmbeck!  *shakes fist*

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Wire RPG

Oh, INDEED.  (But I liked the second season!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The 44 Best SNL Cast Members

Just one man's opinion, of course.  Granted, a man who has seen every episode of SNL since 1997 (January 11, 1997, to be exact) and dozens of older episodes courtesy of reruns on the Canadian Comedy Network.  So while this is just my humble opinion, it's not at all humble --- bow down to my SNL knowledge, jerks.

Comic versatility and length of tenure were two factors I took into consideration for the list, but the overriding factor was simply judging people by how funny I found them specifically on Saturday Night Live itself.  This was more difficult than it sounds, since some people who did nothing on the show went on to have great careers after leaving Saturday Night Live, and vice versa.  For example, Robert Downey Jr. was nowhere close to this list and he was arguably the best actor the show ever turned out.  (Yes, Robert Downey Jr. was once a cast member on Saturday Night Live.)

I tried as hard as I could to keep post-show bias out of the equation, but it's probably impossible.  And, while I've seen a lot of the older episodes, my knowledge of those eps and casts is obviously not nearly as strong as my knowledge of the last 15 years.  Also, I should note that I was picky about the official "cast member" designation.  If you were just a featured player, then no dice….hence, no Al Franken.

Before, we get to the list proper, let's get to the honourable mentions, or as I call it, "The Rest."

Nasim Pedrad, Amy Poehler, David Koechner, Mark McKinney, Darrell Hammond, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Chevy Chase, Abby Elliot, Dennis Miller, Victoria Jackson, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Fallon, Bobby Moynihan, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael McKean

My methodology for the list was to look at every person who's ever seen in the SNL cast, and immediately sift out the ones that I never found funny or never/rarely ever saw perform.  From there, I had a list of about 90-some odd people that I pared down to around 60, then got to numbering.  After the top 44, however, I found myself really labouring to rank one over the other since really, I could take or leave pretty much everyone in "the rest."  So here they are, in one big blob.  If your favourite is in here, just presume I would've put them at 45th in a just and fair world.

A few notes on some of these cast members….

* Chase, Miller, Spade and Morgan are all love 'em or hate 'em comedians.  Either you enjoy their schtick or you don't, since they're limited enough that they don't give you any other options.  I wasn't crazy about any of their SNL tenures so here they are.

* McKinney and McKean are prime examples of the "judging them just on SNL" rule.  If we're ranking people on pure sketch comedy ability, these two are not just on the list, but making respectably high showings.  McKean, in particular, was hurt by the fact that he had just one season on SNL and he didn't get much to do.

* Darrell Hammond, man of a million impressions and none of them (save Bill Clinton and Sean Connery) actually funny.  I sincerely believe that the only reason he was on the show for 14 years wasn't because "he was the only one who could do the political impressions," but rather Lorne used the show as a way of keeping Hammond relatively stable form his drug and alcohol addictions.

* I feel like the entire 2003-2006 span of Saturday Night Live could be summarized by Amy Poehler's Weekend Update laugh.  You know, when Fey or Fallon or Sanz or Meyers or even herself would tell a joke that bombed hard, Poehler would chime in with this high-pitched chirp of a laugh.  The effect was "Hey, no problem folks, we're all friends here, here's another joke!"  That's all well and good….but while the cast camaraderie was arguably never higher during this period, the show sucked.  Guess what, I'd take a FUNNY cast that's back-biting and at each other's throats backstage any day of the week over a bunch of giggly best friends who act like they're in a ninth grade talent show.  I liked Poehler in her first season and then things just spiralled downhill from there, to the point where I was actively cringing at her appearances.  I fully recognize that most would rank Poehler quite highly amongst all cast members and mine is a minority opinion, but it's my list, so (puts on sunglasses) deal with it.  It's weird, I don't care much for Poehler as an actress whatsoever except for Parks & Recreation, where she is beyond perfect and great in the role of Leslie Knope.  It's like a band whose music you hate except for one awesome song.

* I've said this before, but Jimmy Fallon is either the most overrated SNL cast member of all time or the biggest waste of talent in the show's history.  Here's a guy who obviously has comic ability and is a gifted impressionist, yet even though we saw glimpses of it on SNL, it was buried under 15 tons of giggly nonsense.  Fallon literally did break character and start laughing in at least 50 percent of his sketches and I'm probably being generous in that assessment.  There's nothing at all wrong with the occasional crack-up (and sometimes cracking up adds to the comedy) but good god Jimmy, keep it together.  Fallon seemed to treat his stint like SNL fantasy camp --- Fallon is very obviously a guy who loves SNL and was completely appreciative of his time on the show, but it's like he was so blown away by being a cast member that he forgot to actually be a cast member.  If you ever wanted to see what Jimmy Fallon could've been had he only been slightly more on the ball, just look at Bill Hader.  

So, after expending all those words on people who didn't make the list, here are far fewer words on THE ACTUAL LIST.  Enjoy!

44. Kenan Thompson…He just escapes the "rest" designation by dint of some of the funniest reaction shots going and underrated comic timing.  
43. Rachel Dratch
42. Adam Sandler
41. Julia Sweeney
40. Maya Rudolph
39. Taran Killam…
Since the new SNL season starts on Saturday, this list could quickly become outdated if some of the current cast make the leap into becoming stars of the show.  Killam is definitely the guy I could see taking a big step up in 2012-13.
38. Molly Shannon
37. Kevin Nealon
36. Chris Kattan
35. Laraine Newman…
She's one of the few original cast members whose talent didn't immediately jump off the screen.  I feel like I'd rank her higher if I'd seen the 75-79 run in its entirety since it's easy to get lost behind all the big personalities of that era.  
34. Mary Gross
33. Rich Hall….
Another "if I'd seen more of him, he'd be higher" cast member.  A real unique and odd comic talent.  
32. Dana Carvey…
Ah, controversy.  Literally any other SNL list would have him at least 20 spaces higher than this, but I was just never a big Carvey fan.  Broad impressions, broad and repetitive characters and I never saw the appeal.
31. Tina Fey…
Similarly, I think a lot of lists would have Fey much lower since she didn't do much of anything besides Update and Sarah Palin.  To this I say nyah nyah, it's my list, and I thought Fey was tremendous.  "Only doing Update" is harder than it looks, as evidenced by Seth Meyers' weekly trampling of his own lines.
30. Jon Lovitz
29. Cheri Oteri
28. Tim Kazurinsky
27. Nora Dunn…
Somewhere, Andrew Dice Clay turns off his computer in disgust.  Well, not 'his' computer, the public library's.
26. Tim Meadows
25. Fred Armisen
24. Harry Shearer……
It was hard to figure a ranking for Short, Crystal, Guest and Shearer so I just lumped them all together.  All were only on the show for one season and all were "ringers" in the sense that they were already established comic stars before being brought onto Saturday Night Live (with Shearer having had a cup of coffee in the cast in 1979).  It didn't really seem "fair," in a way, to compare them to the larger hill that the rest of the cast members had to climb since the vast majority were unknowns when they got their SNL break.  It'd be like if a PGA Tour golfer became a member at your local country club and entered the club championship tournament for the hell of it, breaking every record in the book.  Needless to say, all four were awesome on the show.  
23. Christopher Guest
22. Billy Crystal
21. Martin Short

20. Andy Samberg….While only an above-average sketch performer, the Digital Shorts have been the funniest recurring bit on SNL since their inception.  You can make a case that Samberg should actually be significantly higher given how the Shorts were a huge part in keeping SNL relevant in the digital age, though he was only the public face, as the other Lonely Island guys obviously were huge co-collaborators.  
19. Kristen Wiig….s
ee, I don't hate her!  Still can't get over Lorne calling her a top-three all-timer.  Dumbfounding.  
18. Jason Sudeikis

17. Bill Hader
16. Norm Macdonald…
Remember how I cited other mostly-Update guys like Chase and Miller as love 'em or hate 'em comedians?  Well, I didn't much like them, but I loved Norm Macdonald.  Actually, I'm doing Norm a disservice by calling him a mostly-Update guy, since his Letterman and Tarantino impressions were pure gold.  And Bob Dole!  Bob Dole likes Norm being this high on the list!
15. Will Forte
14. Chris Parnell…
In addition to being awesome and an underrated force on the show, I think Parnell holds the record for most appearances on SNL with never breaking character.  Everyone else on this list cracked at least once, except for Concrete Chris.  He's the anti-Fallon.  If you can point me to an instance of Parnell breaking, I will owe you a penny.
13. Mike Myers…
For all of Myers' famous recurring characters, I don't think I'm wrong in stating that his single funniest SNL performance was his role in the Timesavers sketch with Heather Locklear.  The fact that this situation then basically happened to Myers in real life with Kanye West years later is phenomenal.
12. Jan Hooks
11. Ana Gasteyer….
An underrated star of the modern SNL era.  Whereas Oteri and Shannon's characters were irritating at least 50 percent of the time, Gasteyer was rock-solid funny in comic roles and a great straight woman in straight roles.  
10. Joe Piscopo….
It's too bad that Piscopo has been largely forgotten today, or if he is remembered, it's as a bit of a hack who got way too into bodybuilding.  Piscopo was a GREAT cast member who was overshadowed (like the rest of the cast) during the Eddie Murphy era, but Piscopo was more than capable of carrying sketches by himself or acting as Murphy's straight man.  He was also arguably the best impressionist the show ever had.  Aside from when Julia Louis-Dreyfus hosts, Lorne Michaels like to pretend that the 1980-1985 era of SNL never happened since he wasn't producing the show at the time.  That decision has hurt Piscopo's legacy more than anyone's, as Murphy was so big that no manner of historical whitewashing can erase his legacy, but the rest of the cast just got written off as Murphy's backup band.  Piscopo deserves better.   
9. Jane Curtin….
Did anyone have a funnier "barely-concealed look of contempt" than Jane Curtin?  The idea of an Update anchor who's disgusted by the nonsense around her is a really funny one.  Given how straight-edge Curtin was in comparison to the rest of her castmates, maybe it wasn't acting.  Anyway, Curtin was another of those great-at-everything versatile cast members.
8. Bill Murray
7. John Belushi
6. Dan Aykroyd
5. Gilda Radner
4. Chris Farley….
This one might cause a bit of debate.  While Farley could go low-key and was more versatile than people give him credit for, his bread and butter was going BEAST MODE in the large majority of his sketches.  After praising so many cast members for their versatility, it seems odd to put the relatively one-note Farley in the #4 spot but my god, his "one note" was an atomic bomb of laughs almost every time.  Few things, if anything, in SNL history is funnier than Chris Farley yelling at the top of his lungs about some misfortune that's befallen him.  It's weird, I don't think many would dispute Radner or Belushi this high on the list, but they and Farley were pretty similar performers; force of nature types who couldn't help but take over scenes.  Farley may have been one note, but it's like having a ballplayer who can't field, throw, run or hit for a big average, but he gets a lot of walks and hits a ton of homers.  If you only have one strength, that's a pretty great strength to have.
3. Phil Hartman
2. Eddie Murphy
1. Will Ferrell….
I'm not sure any 'best SNL cast member' list could have anyone but one of these top three guys as a number one.  It's all about personal preference as to who would get your top spot, but for me it's Ferrell.  It could be because Ferrell was the star of my first era of Saturday Night Live and thus I'm a little biased, yet I truly think he was the all-around best performer the show has ever had.  If Hartman's strength was being a chameleon and a perfect straight man, and Murphy's strength was taking over scenes and making them funnier by his very presence, Ferrell was both of those strengths wrapped up in one guy.  He was the man.  The only problem with Ferrell was that the show came to rely on him too much, so when he left, things went into a tailspin for a few years. 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Parent Of The Year*

I've always been a big fan of ducks.  In fact, I've often dreamt of having a trained pet duck (named, of course, Poliduck) who follows me around, lands on my arm like a trained falcon, honks after my jokes in the styles of Ed McMahon and craps on my enemies.  This is probably…only probably….a pipe dream, as I'd imagine training ducks is much harder than I imagine.  Shitting on command is hard enough for a human to do themselves, let alone trying to teach it to an animal.  Also, if I relied on Poliduck's honks as rimshots, if he ever didn't honk for just natural bein'-an-animal reasons, it would really make it seem like my joke had bombed, which obviously NEVER happens.

Anyway, enough of this nonsense.  This is all meant to say that I like ducks, a feeling I believe is shared by the populace.  And baby ducks?  Get outta town, few things are cuter.  So essentially, this video (brought to my attention by Deadspin) is terrifying as hell.  It's basically real-life Frogger, except the stakes are much higher and ducks are way cuter than frogs.  Rest assured, this was not an example of how Poliduck would behave.  No trained duck of mine would ever take such a big risk with its pack of children.

This one can't been chalked up to the parental standby of "it'll build character," a la Calvin's dad --- this was just a dumb move, Mama or Papa Duck.  I realize there really isn't a good time to get across a highway if you're a family of ducks but geez, wait until dark or something.  It's like this one time my pals and I were driving up in the rural Ottawa valley area and accidentally hit a fox with our car.  No cars passed us coming or going on that road for a good 15 minutes, so with all that open time, that dumb-ass fox picked the exact moment of our car's passing as the best possible moment to get to the other side of the road.  That's procrastination as its worst, folks.  You're in no rush, family of ducks.  Just wait around for a few hours, eating bugs or flapping your wings at nothing in particular.

To enhance your viewing experience, play this video while also syncing up this music at the same time.

* = it should be noted that the actual parent of the year award went to my mom and dad.  That's now 30 straight years they've tied for the honour, a statistically unlikely deadlock that we'll likely never see again in our lifetime.  #analysis

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

NFL Preview

AFC North: Ravens, Steelers*, Bengals, Browns
This division just keeps on keepin' on.  Baltimore and Pittsburgh will battle for the top spot, the Bengals will make it interesting but fall a bit short and the Browns will be arguably the worst team in the NFL.  The jury will finally come in on Joe Flacco this season as if he doesn't produce.  My Ravens fan brother has claimed that Flacco will thrive in 2012 since this is the first year that ol' Joe will have the same offensive coordinator for two straight seasons and virtually all of his offensive unit returning.  So basically, Flacco has no excuses if he doesn't up his game and stop looking like a borderline top-15 quarterback.  Flacco is also playing for a contract extension, so that adds even more incentive for Captain Delaware.  Anyway, the Ravens can eke out this division even without Terrell Suggs, though I'm not sure they'll be able to get much further.

The Steelers are the Steelers.  The Browns are the Browns.

Cincinnati was a bit of a surprise last year and, frankly, are actually pretty well-positioned for now and in the future thanks to the Andy Dalton/AJ Green combination.  Keep in mind, however, that nobody saw their 2011 success coming.  This was a team that many thought would be the worst in the NFL last season, so they're a prime regression candidate.  Is it wrong to punish the Bengals for the expectations of others?  Well, maybe, but looking over this roster, it's hard to believe that this squad actually cracked the postseason last year.

AFC South: Texans, Titans, Jaguars, Colts
I'm hard-pressed to think of a scenario where Houston doesn't win this division.  Other favourites at least have the "if so-and-so gets hurt, they'll be in trouble" card, but Houston  lost pretty much all their stars last season and still won the South.  This might well have been a Super Bowl team last year had everyone stayed healthy; I mean, T.J. Yates (T.J. Yates!) nearly led this team over Baltimore in the playoffs. 

The other factor in the Texans' favour is that every other team in this division is varying degrees of terrible.  Tennessee is okay at best, while the Jags and Colts are battling for the first overall draft pick.  Jake Locker will be back on the bench by Week 6, which is also the week that Vegas has set as the over/under for picking when Mojo Drew will suffer a major injury thanks to holding out for most of training camp.  As for the Colts, last year they were at least sucking for Luck, whereas now they'll just suck.

AFC West: Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers
A lot of folks see this as the most hard-to-predict division but I think it'll be pretty straight-forward.  If Peyton Manning is able to return to even 85% of his old form, Denver wins.  If not, they don't win, as the Broncos won't be able to luck out behind a mediocre QB for two straight seasons.  The Chargers just seem like a team that's finally hit the end of the road and now face a 4-12 mark and a total rebuild (plus maybe a move to Los Angeles) on the horizon.  The Chiefs have too many holes on the roster and aren't worthy of their dark horse status….

….and yet even though Oakland has about as many holes, they're my pick to win.  I hate this pick even though I love it.  Maybe it's a residual belief that things would immediately improve for the Raiders with new management, or that I expect big things with former Packer exec Reggie McKenzie in charge.  Carson Palmer has been mediocre ever since the Steelers blew out his knee in the playoffs and now I'm picking Palmer to lead a team to a division title?!  At the end of the day, I don't see Manning staying healthy and thus somebody has to pick up the pieces.  It might as well be the Raiders.

AFC East: Patriots, Bills*, Jets, Dolphins
It would take a miracle (or a Tom Brady injury) to keep the Pats from winning this division.  New England looks like the most complete team in the AFC and would be my Super Bowl pick….if it weren't for the nagging feeling that they got a bit lucky last year and that it's *very* hard to have back-to-back SB appearances.  Expect a minimum 12-4 record but another disappointment at the end of the year for the Patriots. 

Bills fans, what the hell, I'm throwing you a bone.  Enough has gone wrong for this franchise that I'm jumping on the Mario Williams bandwagon and predicting a sixth-seed playoff appearance for the ol' Bills this season.  If you thought my Raiders pick wasn't goofy enough, I'm now doubling down with this one.  God help us all.  Also, I'm not sure you've heard, but do you realize that Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard?

I'm as tired of hearing about the Jets as you are, so I'll just say that their laughable offensive attack will ruin them.

The Dolphins theoretically have some good pieces in place but they suffer from Redskins-itis, a.k.a. doomed by a terrible owner.  It's possible Ryan Tannehill could surprise us all and have a big rookie year, but it's far more likely that Tannehill plays like hot garbage and drags the Fins down in his wake.  I'm not really sure why Matt Moore isn't the starting QB here.

NFC North: Packers, Bears*, Lions*, Vikings
The North division teams get both the AFC South and the NFC West in intra-divisional play this year, so basically the easiest possible slate outside of the 49ers, Texans and a possible trip to Seattle.  This means that besides the Packers, the Bears and Lions should both be seen as major playoff contenders simply by dint of their weak-ass schedule.  Green Bay gets the duke as the favourite but man, I'm still not sure how a team with no running game, a completely unreliable tight end, a so-so offensive line and a swiss cheese defence can legitimately compete for a Super Bowl.  Yet, that's just how damn good Aaron Rodgers is in this pass-happy era of the NFL.  I'll hold back my criticism about the Pack as a whole for later in the season (hopefully in a playoff preview) but really, another playoff appearance seems like more or less a sure bet, barring a Rodgers injury that would possibly literally kill me. 

The Bears and Lions, thus, are playing for second and I'm picking Chicago to get the duke in this battle.  Last season the Bears were looking like legitimate contenders before both Matt Forte and Jay Cutler got hurt, so if they're both back up to code, there's no reason on paper why Chicago couldn't again be a force.  While the Bears got all the bad luck in 2011, the Lions (for once) seemingly got all the good and returned to the playoffs for the first time in umpteen years.  Can't help but feel some regression is coming for Detroit as I can see them with a winning record, but fighting for their postseason lives.  I think they have fewer flaws than some of the other NFC contenders, hence my prediction that they'll be the sixth seed. 

The Vikings suck.  Moving on.

NFC South: Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers, Panthers
This is a tricky one since while I'm endorsing Atlanta to win a tough division, my prediction is that they'll immediately fold in their first playoff game.  Sorry, I just can't go with "Matty Ice" as a legit playoff QB until he stops playing like Matty Ass in postseason games.  The Falcons will be the main beneficiaries of the Saints' multitude of offseason suspensions, as I can see the Saints winning a few games early by sheer dint of personality and the ol' "everyone is out to get us" team spirit, but they don't have the guns to really keep up over 16 games.

The Buccaneers and Panthers are kind of both in the same boat as rebuilding units and it's really a coin toss to see which one finishes third and which finishes fourth.  Given New Orleans' problems and Atlanta's love of underachieving, it wouldn't totally shock me to see either Tampa or Carolina be this year's outta-nowhere division winner.  The Panthers might still be a year away from being serious contenders while the Bucs will get a three- or four-win new coach boost.  I mean after all, they did hire the man who turned Rutgers into a national powerhouse and led them to….uh, a 38-26 record over the last five years.  And no Big East titles.  Geez, Greg Schiano couldn't even win the Big East?

NFC West: Seahawks, 49ers, Rams, Cardinals
I admit to being a quiet supporter of the Seattle Seahawks.  In fact, if I weren't a Packers fan 4 life, it's very possible I'd be a full-fledged Shawks fan.  I dunno what it is…maybe it's just a long-standing admiration for the city of Seattle itself, thanks to years of watching 'Frasier.'  So I freely acknowledge that picking them to win the division could be based on semi-homerism but this team has talent.  All that seemed to be hurting the Seahawks last year was incredible ineptitude at the quarterback position but that might've been solved thanks to Seattle's offseason signing of Matt Fl…wait, what?  They're going with the unheralded, 5'9" third-round draft pick instead?  Uh…okay….  Well, even if Russell Wilson backfires, there's still Flynn for the win, though it's probably not a good sign that Flynn couldn't beat Wilson out in training camp.

The 49ers were a couple of muffed punt receptions away from making the Super Bowl last year but I'm down on them solely due to the regression factor.  Even moreso than the Lions, everything went right for Frisco in 2011 and I can't see everything breaking correctly again.  Like, do you really think Alex Smith will continue to be competent?  Do you actually believe Randy Moss isn't anything but a washed-up shell of a shell of his former self?  The 49ers are another 'winning team but out of the playoffs' candidate.  Of course, since San Francisco is playing Green Bay in Week 1, I've now doomed my Packers to eat a loss to this team that I'm terribly underrating.  Dammit.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Rams make a big jump in the win column to 6-10 or even 7-9 simply due to Jeff Fisher now running the show.  Fisher isn't a miracle worker but he is a very good coach and this seems to be one of those Schottenheimer-esque situations where adding just a very good coach can instantly shape up the program.  Remember, a lot of dumb people thought the Rams had the talent to win the division last year, so they have some pieces.

The Cardinals need a damn quarterback in the worst possible way.  Without one, and unless Patrick Peterson actually is a super-charged Devin Hester, Arizona will just flail around in this league.

NFC East: Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins
This year New York will make things easier on us by simply being good from day one, thus leaving no "wait, what?" feeling that summed up the entire 2011-12 playoffs.  In fact, I can see this being a lot like the Giants' last post-Super Bowl season in 2008…they look like powerhouses and then choke it up in the playoffs, essentially reversing their narrative from the previous year.  Such a choke might be harder to come by this year, however, as the Giants are just so stacked and great on the defensive line that barring a couple of injuries, that one huge advantage will keep them in every game no matter how the secondary or the offence is performing.

My initial thoughts of this NFL season were to rank the Eagles as big-time powers in the NFC but now I've busted them down to missing the postseason entirely.  Quite simply, I don't think this team is really all that good.  Cue my usual criticisms of Michael Vick being perhaps the most overrated player in football, and also cue my "seriously, they made the offensive line coach the defensive coordinator and then let him keep his job?!" spiel.  I just see too many problems in Philadelphia to take them seriously.

The Cowboys are an enigma team.  I can see this team finishing anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6 and it wouldn't surprise me a bit, so I might as well bite the bullet and simply predict 8-8 and yet more disappointment for Jerry Jones.  (Not that I don't enjoy predicting disappointment for Jerry Jones.) 

It's a shame that an exciting, immensely likeable young star like Robert Griffin III is stuck on this entirely unlikeable team playing for this idiot.  Even if Griffin wows everyone and plays up to his potential immediately, Washington still probably doesn't have enough to crack 8-8. 

Ravens over Bills
Steelers over Raiders
Lions over Giants
Seahawks over Bears

Packers over Lions
Falcons over Seahawks
Ravens over Patriots
Texans over Steelers

Packers over Falcons
Texans over Ravens 

Super Bowl 47
Houston over Green Bay…..there, that reverse jinx should work nicely.  Unless talking about the reverse jinx out loud will reverse it.  Ah, crap.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Return Of The Conchords

Everything about this is amazing, from the random jokes about obscure New Zealand celebrities to Murray tracing a picture of his hand to the good-natured jokes about the Muppets' songs.  Man, do I ever miss the FOTC show.