Monday, March 25, 2013

"Brush" With "Greatness"

This is a very light "brush with greatness" and I'm pretty sure it's a non-existent one but here goes.  I thought I saw Kit Harington and Rose Leslie (the actors who portray Jon Snow and Ygritte on Game Of Thrones) strolling down Peter Street in Toronto a couple of weeks ago.  My thought process about this sighting…

The pros….

* ComicCon was in town that weekend so I thought "Hmm, maybe they were at the event promoting the upcoming GoT season."  There was indeed a GoT presence at ComicCon given that a friend of mine got a picture of himself sitting on the iron throne, which is a pretty great idea for a Facebook profile shot.

* Harington and Leslie are, in fact, an item if you believe the gossip rags.  This was probably inevitable --- what else are they going do for fun, stuck up there filming in freezing-cold Iceland?  This also relates to my most oft-cited criticism of the GoT series, which was PUT ON A TOQUE, JON SNOW.  Seriously, how are we supposed to respect this guy as one of the show's heroes if he doesn't have the basic sense to cover his head when it's -30 degrees?  Then again, the guy I saw on Peter Street wasn't wearing a toque either and it was a pretty chilly day, so maybe Harington is simply immune to cold climates, a la Mr. Freeze.   

The cons….

* Harington and Leslie were, in fact, not at ComicCon.

* There are roughly 150,000 hipster guys in Toronto who are rocking Harington's scruffy style of facial hair, so he could be easily mistaken.  Leslie's looks are obviously a lot more striking but then again, she is a ginger.  On the show she looks great -- in real life, away from professional makeup and camerawork, god knows what sort of over-freckled visage she's sporting.

* Seems awfully unlikely that, after getting caught up on the entire Game Of Thrones series, I'd just happen to see actors from the cast in my own city.  Could very well be that I've just got the show on my mind.  It's somewhat similar to when I thought I saw Kevin "Locke's Awful Father" Tighe in New York in 2007, at the height of my LOST fandom.  I've been watching a lot of Portlandia recently, so expect my next brush with greatness post to be about seeing Carrie Brownstein buying a burger at a Harvey's.

I'm going to go ahead and count this Brush With Greatness as an "almost surely not."  If I ever do meet a Game Of Thrones actor in person, hopefully it's Jack "King Joffrey" Gleeson so I can just punch him in the face.  Sure, he's just an actor playing a role….but still, principle.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fallon Wins?

I always felt that Hamlet was a very subtly comic play, no moreso than the ending, if you look at it from Fortinbras' point of view.  Here's young Fortinbras, all full of piss and vinegar after Hamlet Sr. slays Fortinbras Sr., and Forty Jr. plays to avenge his dad by taking over Denmark.  He puts together an army, storms the Elsinore castle…and finds his work has been done for him.  Fortinbras walks in on a court full of dead people and Horatio standing there going, "Dude, wait'll I tell you about THIS shit."  The parallel is supposed to be that Hamlet couldn't act until he it was too late and was punished for it, whereas Fortinbras did act and was ultimately rewarded with the throne but it really comes off as Fortinbras kind of falling ass-backwards into the kingdom.

So yeah, as you see where I'm going with this, Jimmy Fallon is Fortinbras.  After all the dust has settled in the late-night wars over the last five years (really, over the last 20 years), it looks as if the Tonight Show will indeed become property of ol' Giggles McSketchBreak himself by 2014 when Jay Leno's contract is up.  Bill Carter reported the news and, given how he is as connected to the late-night gossip as anyone, I'd tend to take his word to the bank.

This isn't a total shock since, naturally, Fallon has been seen the natural successor to Leno ever since the whole Conan fiasco reinstalled Leno at the Tonight Show, turfed Conan from NBC completely and left Fallon just doing his thing on the Late Night show.  But still….Jimmy Fallon as the reigning king of the Tonight Show is still hard to quite wrap one's head around.  Granted, this is largely due to my own prejudice since I've seen maybe four episodes of Fallon's show ever and still just think of him as "that either overrated/waste of talent guy from SNL who cracked up in half his sketches."  Just when I've accepted (with no small degree of shock) that Drew Carey is this generation's Bob Barker, Ryan Seacrest is this generation's Dick Clark and Matt Lauer may be the next generation's Alex Trebek, now I've got to get used to Fallon as the new Johnny Carson?  And remember, Fallon is only 38, so if he wants it, he could easily have a Carson-esque run of longevity on the Tonight Show.

A few major caveats…

* This all presumes that Jay Leno will actually go quietly in 2014 which, as we've seen before, is no sure bet.  It seems like NBC is actually determined to let Leno go this time since they may have the leverage of Leno not having any place to go to get revenge --- Jimmy Kimmel is set at 11:30 at ABC, FOX has shown no interest in getting back into the late night game and CBS has Letterman for the next few years plus whomever Letterman's hand-picked replacement will be after that.  I can't decide what would be funnier: TBS throwing over Conan overboard to pursue Leno or CBS deciding on Leno as Letterman's replacement, which would lead to Letterman's funniest monologues EVER for those final couple of months. 

* That Fallon can comfortably transition to 11:30, which I'm actually not worried about.  The major takeaway from Bill Carter's story wasn't that Fallon would take over the Tonight Show but that the Tonight Show will move to New York City.  So Fallon, essentially, will get to run his exact same show from the exact same spot (maybe a new studio in 30 Rock but still in 30 Rock) with the same crew, the Roots, etc.  From what I know of Fallon's show, it doesn't sound like he's doing anything so esoteric that it wouldn't translate to earlier in the evening, so the traditionally-older Tonight Show viewers will probably take to him.  Or, it'll be because they all think Fallon reminds them of their grandkids.  BTW, let's not overlook the fact that now NBC Is accommodating Fallon by moving the Tonight Show to New York while they insisted on moving Conan and his whole crew out to Burbank.  I really believe that move was one of the major factors that killed Conan's stint as host; his manic energy worked in NYC whereas it didn't play as well in front of the laid-back, tourist-filled California audiences.

* This all presumes that NBC will actually still be around for any longer than 5-10 years given how the entire network seems to be imploding on itself like a black hole.  Fallon may lose the 'king of late night' title by default to Kimmel or Letterman's replacement or Jon Stewart or whomever simply by dint of the fact that the Tonight Show will get pawned off on the USA Network while NBC becomes a 24/7 Voice rerun network.

By fall 2014, the late night scene will be Fallon, Kimmel and Letterman on the networks at 11:35, Conan plugging away on TBS at 11, Stewart and Colbert from 11 to midnight, then Craig Ferguson and whomever the new Late Night host will be at 12:35.  Then you've got to figure that Letterman will be retiring soon after Leno goes (for one last big of comeuppance) and we'll have another war over who takes over his seat.  The hot rumour is that CBS has been keen to have Jon Stewart do it, so that could lead to Stewart taking over for Letterman and maybe John Oliver take over the Daily Show.  Ferguson could also seem like a logical choice to replace Letterman but opinion is split as to whether Ferguson would want the job since he's so happy in getting free reign at 12:35, whereas taking over The Late Show would lead to more network influence.

So really, who knows how things will shake out over the next few years.  And, in a way, who cares, since I'm sure for most people, this won't matter *quite* as much since everyone just catches important clips from the late shows the next day anyway.  It could all be much ado about nothing….but that's not the Shakespeare reference we're making here.  Let's see, Fallon is Fortinbras, does that make Leno into Claudius?  Does it make Conan into Hamlet (or poor Yorick)?  Kimmel and Ferguson the two gravediggers, just watching everything from afar and making their own fun?  Chelsea Handler as Ophelia?  I feel like this analogy is falling apart.

My suggestion: just have Louis CK do everything.

Friday, March 15, 2013

March Mad Men

There's no way Pete Campbell doesn't pick Duke all the way.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fun With Papal Names

The hiring process isn't over yet and I don't want to be pessimistic, but it's looking like I won't be chosen as the new pope.  As the fourth season of Jersey Shore taught us, it can be pretty fun to live in Italy, so I'm disappointed over not being selected.  I can't put my finger on what caused them to reject my CV, other than a) my not being Catholic, and b) the fact that I actually sent in a CV, just as if I was applying to a Best Buy or something.  Come on Vatican, I work well both in groups AND as an individual.  What more do you want?  Should I have written "to whom it may concern" in Latin?

In fairness, however, I can admit that my interest in being Pope would wane considerably after I'd picked my regnal name.*  (Well, okay, and after I'd taken a ride in the Popemobile.)  The whole idea of picking a new name for one's papal reign is fascinating to me, though admittedly I would do with a pretty boring choice --- my actual name.  Yep, it would've be Pope Mark II, though if it was allowed, I'd just adopt my blog name completely and go as Pope Question Mark.  Ooh, or, are symbols allowed?  Just "Pope ?" would be totally badass.

* = And really, the Church is right to not choose me since I would totally troll them via my papal name.  I'd become Pope Judas or Pope Ingmechanism or just Pope Pope or something silly.

You'll notice I'd be "Mark II" since there has already been a Pope Mark, way back in the fourth century.  He was Pope for less than nine months and had a relatively innocuous reign, so I figure 'Mark' is way overdue for a comeback.  I mean, Mark is one of the staple Biblical names yet it's almost never busted out (and Luke and Matthew have never been used) while "John" is the most popular (Popeular?) Pope name of them all.  Not to mention that "Mark II" has a certain cutting-edge, technological sound to it, all the more fitting for the 21st century.  We're already in an age where Popes have Twitter accounts and borrow sunglasses from rock stars, so it only makes sense that Pope Mark II carry a name that makes him sound kind of like a camera.

Mark is far from the only notable one-off Pope name, however.  I would be more than satisfied if the new Pope skipped naming himself after me (or after the gospel or Mark Spitz or whatever) and instead took one of these past papal names that are ripe for a second instalment….

* Linus.  Paying tribute to one of the most renowned religious speakers of our time!  That said, the Catholic Church would balk at worshipping a false idol like the Great Pumpkin.

* Hilarius.  "Why yes, your Holiness, I would be honoured to kiss your ring.  I'll just…argh!  Sputter!  Was that seltzer water?!  Oh, ha ha, Pope Hilarius, you got me again!"  Downside: Pope Hilarius sounds like a Joker plot come to life.

* Severinus.  Yeah, for the Harry Potter connection, even if the name isn't exactly the same.  Frankly, forget being 'Severinus II' and just go with 'Severus,' new Pope.  Also, someone should ask Alan Rickman if he wants to be Pope since that would be awesome.

* Zosimus.  I dunno, just sounds kinda cool.  Plus, after a particularly good edition of Sunday Mass, Pope Zosimus II could high-five his cardinals and say "Pope Zosimus is the awesomest!"

* Cornelius.  Have you ever seen the design of some of those churches?  Talk about extravagant.  Lots of silver and goooooooooooooollllllldddd!

* Silverius.  Same idea.

* Simplicius.  All of his Sunday masses could be just a few words long and very to the point.  Sure, the thousands gathered might be disappointed by the brevity, but what do you expect?  The name of the game is literally Simplicius.  Or, on the other hand, everyone could think that Pope Simplicius' brevity and use of mere aphorisms was a sign of real deep thought.  Basically, I'm saying that Pope Simplicius would be Peter Sellers' character from Being There.

* Valentine.  "Clad in his signature pink and red robes, Pope Valentine II was seen throwing rose petals off the balcony today.  In a related story, the Popemobile's bubble has been re-designed in the shape of a heart."

* Hyginus.  Misinterpreting the belief that "someone needs to clean up the Catholic Church!", Pope Hyginus II sets up Purell bottle stations all over the Vatican.

* Lando.  I kid you not, there was actually a Pope Lando.  This one absolutely needs a revival, possibly as a tie-in with Disney and the new Star Wars movies.  There's a heaven/Cloud City joke in here somewhere but I can't quite put my finger on it. 

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Other People's Writing (Grantland edition)

Here are this month's articles to check out, all of them from Grantland this time around...

* We'll start things with the best of the bunch, Michael Weinreb's profile of Donald E. Westlake, one of the greatest crime fiction writers of all time and one of my personal favourites.  Calling Westlake a "crime fiction writer" is a bit misleading given that he so often branched out into other genres but since he's best known for writing the grim Parker series and the light-hearted Dortmunder series, crime fiction it is.  Of note, I had no idea that Westlake was actually "Richard Stark," author of the Parker novels, until a few years ago.  Now I have 24 more books to add to my list, not to mention hunting down other Westlake novels written under pen names.

* Bryan Curtis only semi-tongue in cheek dictionary of sportswriting terms.  I won't lie, I've used a number of these myself.  A big number.  A thousand?  No, that's too big.

* Chuck Klosterman's already iconic interview with Royce White, the Houston Rockets draft pick who is holding out and holding both the team, the NBA and society in general under the microscope for how they treat mental illness.  I'm not always the biggest fan of Klosterman's circular, inconclusive writing style, but it's a good fit for this very complicated subject.   

* Norm Macdonald (yes, that Norm Macdonald) on why Tiger Woods will outplay Rory McIlroy this season.  Gotta say, it's still very early yet in the PGA season but thus far, Norm is looking pretty bang-on.  This was the first of Macdonald's Grantland pieces that is actually funny to read on the page, rather than funny only if you imagine him delivering the lines in person.  If Macdonald delivered his Grantland columns in podcast form, they'd be much more effective.

* Rembert Browne on the (bizarre) Thuzio service that allows fans to talk to and/or hang out with various retired athletes.  As Browne puts it, it's the website that constantly makes you wonder "Wait, is this sadder for the buyer or the athlete?"  It is utterly unsurprisingly that such a shameless service was founded by Tiki Barber, the man that pride forgot.  I do enjoy that Dale Ellis (my childhood basketball hero, entirely due to Nintendo-performance reasons) gets his own specific citation in this article.  In case you're wondering, childhood friends who may be reading this post, no, I'd rather not receive a phone call from Dale Ellis on my birthday.  Just give me the straight cash, homey.

* Brian Phillips looks at the vast gap between the beginning of Diego Maradona's career and its current state.  Speaking of beginnings and endings, Phillips' opening and concluding paragraphs belong in the Thematic Callback Hall Of Fame.  It's a bit cheesy but man, that's some good tie-in.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Hot! Live! Music!

James Mercer, "Simple Song"
A quick history of me and the Shins.  Like most folks, I first heard of them through "Garden State," though not even Natalie Portman's breathless endorsement got me to actually listen to the music.  Nevertheless, when they guested on SNL soon after, I was like alright, the Shins, they're cool.  Then they SUCKED.  Honestly, I'm probably over-exaggerating how bad their performance was but my memory was that it was just a terrible mash of every indie rock stereotype imaginable.  This was my dominant opinion of the band until they guested on Saturday Night Live again last year, played this song and were awesome.  I suppose one of these days I should actually listen to some Shins music and create an opinion that isn't based on brief outings on sketch comedy shows notorious for poor sound mixing of live performances but meh.  I'll give it another decade.

Beck, "Clap Hands"
I'm pretty sure I've actually linked to this in an old Hot! Live! Music! post before but that video is long dead.  It occurs to me that I could keep this feature going in perpetuity based on the same 40-50 videos since they'll inevitably keep getting taken down from YouTube and then re-posted in the future.  As Leonard Nimoy would say, the cosmic ballet…goes on.

David Byrne, "Psycho Killer"

Metric, "Gimme Sympathy"
Jesus Christ.  So I'm already kicking myself for getting really into Metric JUST as they conclude their tour, thus making me wait for at least a couple of more years before I can see them live and really confirm my fandom.  Then, I find out that they ended their damn concerts with this acoustic version of "Gimme Sympathy" and yeah, watch this Lisa, you can actually pinpoint the moment when my heart ripped in half.  (BTW, I guess you don't always need to see a band live to "confirm your fandom."  Like, if you never saw the Beatles in concert, I won't look down on you for liking them.  But, if they ever figure out corpse re-animation, I fully expect you to be first in line for tickets for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Fusion-Powered Hearts Club Band tour.)

The Watchmen, "Any Day Now"
Canadian content!  You'll notice there are more than a few acoustic performances here and frankly, it's an easy out.  It's not hard to find great acoustic renditions of virtually anything online but come on, aren't songs like this fun?  The album version is full o' guitars and is kind of sludgy but as we see from this stripped-down version, "Any Day Now" is a helluva song.  Who knew?  Was there an entire generation of Canadian alt-rock music that was secretly great but buried under grungy production since, as How I Met Your Mother taught us, Canada invented grunge in 1996.  Also, hey wait, the FIRST auto-fill for Geddy Lee on YouTube "How I Met Your Mother"?  The man's been a big rock star for over 40 years!  All that is outflanked by a random sitcom cameo from three months ago?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Daily Simpsons Dialogue, Addendum #2

Unless the new set of Krusty trading cards, I will never run out of ideas!  We're already up to the third installment of Simpsons lines that have permeated my everyday dialogue, following the original post and the first addendum.  This list is going to end up having more addenda than the minutes of your average People's Front Of Judea meeting and oh god, now I kind of want to do a list of Monty Python lines I use on a near-daily basis.  This will never end.

"I'd have looked quite the fool.  An April Fool, as it were."
"Why must you turn my office into a house of lies?"
"My Achilles heel, if you will."
"My mom says I'm cool."
"Woo hoo!  Look at that flubber fly!"
"Thank you for coming!  I'll see you in hell!"
"Uh oh, my heart just stopped……..There it goes!"
"Talk to the audience?  Ugh, that's always death."
"Hey there, Blimpy Boy, flying through the sky so fancy free."
"Just...working…the turkey…through."
"Zookeeper, zookeeper!  I think those monkeys are killing each other!"
"I don't think he's coming back."
"Now we're into the dregs."
"I don't use the word 'hero' very often, but you are the greatest hero in American history."
"Shut up, that's why!"
"Well, that just kept going."
"I wasn't really going to kill you.  I was just going to cut you."
"I dunno, Coast Guard?"
"You can see the bind I'm in."
"Sometimes I think you WANT to fail."  "Shut up, just shut up!"
"Oh man, now my pants are chafing me."

Sunday, March 03, 2013

"Do The Harlem Shake"

If you type "Do The Harlem Shake" into YouTube, this happens.  Well played, YouTube.  Sadly, typing "Do The Radiohead 'Just' video" doesn't make the entire website lie down on its side.

As a bonus, here's the cast of Happy Endings' version of a Harlem Shake video.  Basically the only place you can see them now that ABC has more or less canceled the show in favour of....deep sigh...Celebrity Wife Swap.  Come on, humanity.  Even though I'm a bit off Happy Endings, it didn't deserve this fate.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

I'm The Smartest NFL Player

....or I would be, if I played in the NFL.  I can tell since I more or less dominated 12 sample questions from the Wonderlic test, the personality and aptitude exam given to all NFL prospects at the scouting combine.  (The Wonderlic is given to all sorts of people in all sorts of fields but is best known in popular culture through its connection to football.)

I say this not to brag, since here are the questions.  Not exactly a lot of real brain-busters on the list, eh?  The full test is 50 questions that must be answered in 12 minutes, and since there's nothing here that requires more than 30 seconds to work out the math on, that time limit shouldn't be too onerous.  Still, NFL players traditionally do hilariously poorly on this thing, with an average score of 20.  Twenty!  Not even a passing grade!  Am I expecting too much from athletes who are hit in the head about 100 times per game?  Probably, but still, twenty out of fifty is the average?!

This said, according to that Wiki article, the top scores in NFL Wonderlic history belong to a real motley crew of players.  Ryan Fitzpatrick and Blaine Gabbert, both of whom are currently stinking up the QB position for the Bills and Jaguars respectively, both had very impressive scores.  Matt Birk is a multi-time Pro Bowler and got a very high Wonderlic score but he's also against gay marriage, so maybe the test isn't the best judge of overall intelligence.  Legendary draft bust Mike Mamula got a 49, so one can only presume Mamula drilled Wonderlic-style questions as hard as he drilled other combine exercises, which is how he rose to his high draft position.  Obviously the ability to answer simple math and logic questions bears little relevance to how one can perform on the football field, and that's not even counting the number of players who didn't take the test seriously and mailed it in.  I can see Jay Cutler showing up, taking one look at the thing and putting out his cigarette on the "fill in your name" slot.

The only perfect 50 went to Pat McInally, who went to Harvard and had a nice career as a punter in the 70's and 80's, and whose post-football claim to fame has largely been, "the guy who aced the Wonderlic."   So while I would be the smartest player in the NFL today, I can't say I'm the smartest ever, since by the Wonderlic's standards I'd be tied with McInally.  But, really, I'd say I'm probably ahead of him.  Don't get me wrong, Harvard is an okay school, but I went to the University of We...uh, I mean, Western University.  American readers may recognize the name since Harvard is so often referred to as "the United States' answer to Western University."  My school is playing on such a high intellectual level that when the layperson may point out that UWO isn't actually in Western Canada, then BOOM!  Hidden geography lesson.  #YouJustGotWesterned

I may not be able to bench-press 400 pounds or run the 40-yard dash in under five seconds or, hell, even finish a 40-yard dash without collapsing.  But, I have the brains!  [/Andy Kaufman]  When it comes to intellectual prowess, no NFL player can hold a candle to me.  Someone like Gabbert could light a candle and attempt to hold it in my general direction, but he would fail miserably, forcing him to carry take his candle to Pete's dragon and try his luck there.  Brains over brawn, all the way.

I may also be the smuggest NFL player.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Sacrilege"

I became a Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan a few months after "It's Blitz" was released in 2009, so this is the first time I've gotten to enjoy the anticipation of one of their new releases.  Always a fun time, eh?  One of your favourite bands has a new album coming out and you can read about their recording process online, mark the release date down on your calendar, buy it on that day and listen to it in the car on the ride home (or plan some other long drive that day so you can listen to it in one fell swoop).  I love how this was everyone's method of buying records as recently as 12 years ago and yet now that whole process seems as outdated as riding one's horse and carriage to the typewriter store.