Friday, May 31, 2013

Monty Python's Hearing Aid Sketch

Even some of the most hardcore Python fans aren't aware of "the German episodes," two episodes of largely-new material that the group produced for German television in the 1970's.  The first of these eps was actually entirely written and performed in German, which is a hell of a thing given that most members of the troupe actually didn't speak German; imagine the SNL cast entirely performing an episode in Spanish or something.

Anyway, these episodes have become the comedy equivalent of a great band releasing a B-sides collection that contains a few of their best songs.  To wit, the hearing aid sketch, which is to Monty Python as "Hey Hey What Can I Do" is to Led Zeppelin.

 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Random Nonsense

Sorry I haven't been posting as much lately.  I've been busy with my new job at a keyboard-manufacturing plant!  I'm working as a seqwerty guard.

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The awesome, outstanding, mind-blowing Scale Of The Universe website.  It might be, dare I say, the coolest site in the universe and it's certainly a great way to kill a half-hour.  It also helped settle a bet for me, since I correctly said that Kanye West's ego was, in fact, larger than Alpha Centauri.

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I overheard a peculiar heckle from the stands at a recent soccer game.  A player had, ahem, 'been fouled' and was now down on the turf, clutching his ankle and looking for all the world like he had just stepped into a bear trap.  Of course, after a brief visit from the trainer and a stroll to the sidelines, the injured player was up and running again with no issue within two minutes.

While the player was down, however, one fan yelled the following: "you cry like a taint!"

For the uninitiated, the "taint" is slang for the area between your rectum and your genitals, and I believe the term originated in a Conan O'Brien SNL sketch.  Calling someone a taint is a perfectly legitimate insult, and "you cry like a…" is an insult as old as the form itself.  What doesn't make sense, however, is why these two have been combined into one confusing taunt.  After all, taints don't cry (also the title of a very rare and unsuccessful early single from The Cure).

So why a taint taunt?  Perhaps it related to the fact that the player was, as noted, milking this injury to try and draw a booking or to just give himself a minute of rest during the game.  Since these kinds of dives are frowned upon, it could be argued that the player was "tainting" the sport, and thus the fan used the term in this context while also using the subjective form to associate it with the more common insult.  Wordplay.  Brilliant.

Forget what I said, this fan is clearly a wordsmith. 

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Here's another quirk of language.  If you say "oh, my mind was a million miles away" when you're daydreaming or something, you could alternatively say "my mind was 1000 miles away," or "100 miles away," or even "my mind was a mile away" and these would all mean the same thing.

Though if you said, "my mind is 1000 taints away," that would be just weird.  And gross.

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The new edition of 'Between Two Ferns,' which also just happens to be the Lonely Island's new video.  I've got to say, I don't quite remember spring break in the same way, but I'm forgetting things in my old age.  Let me ask my husband, he'll know.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Development Day

Sorry Mitch Hurwitz, I'm going to binge-watch them.  I'll watch the episodes in order, obviously, but yeah, I'm so eager for a new Arrested Development season that I will happily set aside six straight hours to devour the entire thing.  In fact, it won't even be my first AD marathon of the week, as I've spent much of my recent free time catching up on the initial 53 episodes.  Some observations after this rewatch…

* This show is really, really great.  It's in the sitcom pantheon.  I'm happy to say that though it's been a few years since I've seen these episodes, they all still hold up and I'm still as much in awe of the writing as ever.  You can make a legit case that this is the funniest show of all time, especially since its relatively short run actually enhances that argument since AD never lost steam in later seasons a la virtually every other comedy on television.  This is probably the reason why AD, of all cult hits, actually did get revived after all these years.  Fans didn't just love it as a cult classic; I think everyone knew that Arrested Development was something truly special and in need of cultivation for as long as possible.

* To that end, it's the rare show without ANY dud episodes.  All 53 were gems.  For years I considered that "S.O.B.s" was probably the worst of the bunch since it got just a bit too self-referential, and yet even watching it again yesterday, it's hardly a bad or unfunny episode by any means.  It also occurred to me that saying, "I don't care for S.O.B.s" can be uttered in the same tone as Lucille saying, "I don't care for GOB," so I'm going to keep considering it my least-favourite episode for that reason alone.

* I did, in fact, eat a banana while watching the old episodes.  A peanut butter-and-banana sandwich, in fact.  There's always money in peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches.

* If Dev Patel were ever to get arrested, this would be the ideal weekend to do it and fly totally under the radar.  Any #ArrestedDev tweets would be totally buried on Twitter.

* Judy Greer playing unattractive is a stretch, but then again, GOB's attractiveness radar was pretty skewed, so perhaps it was just his opinion and Kitty wasn't supposed to be 'ugly' in the world of the show.  Since, c'mon, it's Judy Greer.  Even with crossed eyes.

* And while I'm being shallow, original Marta >>>> long-term Marta.

* Funniest running gag I'd forgotten about: whenever a group of police/security is tackling George or Oscar, one cop always runs in late with the knockout baton shot.

* Two great lists of hidden or subtle gags within Arrested Development.  I just watched this damn show again and STILL missed about half of these.  The one about GOB's Segway always leading to plot segues is mind-blowing.

* A whole lot of "hey, it's…." actors who weren't as famous (or famous at all) during the original airings yet have gone onto great things in the last seven years.  I think basically all of the major Upright Citizens Brigade cast show up, a few Office cast members (Phyllis Smith and Brian "Kevin" Baumgartner), Family Guy voice actors and, most surprisingly for me, Jonathan Penner from Survivor.  He and Kevin McDonald from "Kids In The Hall" are the two cops interviewing Michael on Take Your Daughter To Work Day.  Penner can't trick any information out of Michael, so whether it's on Survivor or Arrested Development, Penner's plans simply don't work.

* In the spirit of the Simpsons lines I use on a daily basis, it's worth noting that quite a bit of AD dialogue has permeated my everyday language.  To wit...

"Baby, you've got a stew going!"
"Her?"
"I don't understand the question and I won't respond to it."
"You're going to get some hop-ons."
"…the guy in the $5000 suit!"
"Pop-Pop gets a treat?"
"Well, let's hope it doesn't come to that."
"I'm…white…"
"Ahhhh, Gene Parmesan!"
"I just want my kids back."
"Huzzah!"
"Say goodbye to THESE!"
"Take a good look, it's the last time you'll see these!"
"That's why you always leave a note!"
"What is she, funny?"
"Illusion.  A trick is something a whore does for money."
"…with club sauce!"
"There's always money in the banana stand, tsk tsk."
"Steve Holt!"
"It's a wonderful restaurant!"  "It sure is!"
"This party is going to be off, the hook!"
"No touching!"
"The mere fact that you call making love 'pop-pop' tells me that you're not ready."
"Some….light….treason."
"We finish each other's…."  "…sandwiches?"
"You can always tell a Milford man."
"Come on!"
"He said some wonderful things."
"But where did the lighter fluid come from?!"
"I've got the worst f***ing attorneys."
"You were just a turd out there….Just a, a turd."
"Go fatty."
"I don't know who that is, and I don't care to find out."
"Look at banner, Michael!"
"I never should've given up animation rights."
"It walked on my pillow!"
"I buy all my cars at police auctions."
"Beads."  "Bees?!"  "Beads!"
"Let the great experiment begin!"
"Annyong."
"If that's a veiled criticism of me, I won't hear it and I won't respond to it."
"Oh, most definitely."
"I'm sorry, your wife is dead!…I'm sorry, that was 100 percent inappropriate of me."
"Daddy horny, Michael."
"And I'm the laaaaaaaaaaast…."
"Douche chillllllll….."
"I'M A MONSTER!"
"I've made a huge mistake."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Other People's Writing

Lots of good stuff this month, mostly from Grantland and partly from someone on my very blogroll…

* Hey, remember the 1980's?  It was a long-ago, magical time when Michael Jordan faced Martin and Charlie Sheen in a televised game of one-on-two.  Grantland's Rembert Browne goes over the details of this nonsense.  I think the new goal of my sportswriting career is to eventually rise to the level of "expert handicapper" Stan Hochman and weigh in on made-for-TV athletic contests.  If this same contest happened today, I can guarantee two things.  One, Charlie and MJ would hop in a car afterwards, drive off to Vegas together and not be seen for four days.  Two, Martin would narrow his eyes and say, "You know, for future reference, the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats season was when I decided to whip your ass."

* James Hughes, son of John Hughes, writes for Grantland about his family's love of hockey, specifically the duality between the Blackhawks and the Red Wings, and how this love echoed throughout his dad's movies.  I've said it before and I'll say it again --- Alan Ruck should've been nominated for an Oscar for Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  Between Ruck's jersey and being 'Woodrow' on the Simpsons, Gordie Howe made quite the impact on American pop culture.

* Hey, someone I actually know! (And who doesn't write for Grantland!  My old university friend Sarah Nicole Prickett wrote a piece about Mary MacLane's memoirs, and, by extension, about the coexistence of the artistic mind and (perhaps alleged) mental disorders.  If you, like me, had never heard of Mary MacLane before, you'll still be in awe of anyone badass enough to make "I Await The Devil's Coming" the title of their MEMOIRS. 

* Do you like old people?  Sure!  Do you like old people telling stories, as long as said old people aren't Grandpa Simpson?  Sure!  Do you like old basketball players?  Sure!  Do you like old basketball players telling hilarious stories about their crazy travels on the road?  Since everything has been so positive thus far, I can only presume you'll say 'sure!' to Grantland's Jonathan Abrams' oral history of what it was like for NBA stars to get from city to city in the 1950's, 60's and 70's.  Not to spoil things, but perhaps the funniest joke of the bunch is Dolph Schayes' story about the Connie Hawkins/Johnny Kerr exchange.  If Kerr actually set this up as well as he did in the story, Kerr is a genius of comic timing.

* Royal Shrovetide Football, as chronicled by Grantland's Graham Parker, is an annual soccer game in Ashbourne, England that takes two days to play, 3000 players to field the teams and uses the entire town as the field.  It is astonishing to me that no Canadian city has tried this for a hockey weekend yet.

* Luke Donald may not have a major, but he has a cow!  Grantland's Shane Ryan explains.  In many ways, this is more impressive than a major championship.  Donald should take note of this.

Jim Nantz: Luke, another top-five finish here at Augusta but no victory.  Is it frustrating at this point, not having a major title?

Donald: Nope.

Nantz: Well, that's a good attitude to…

Donald: I won a cow.

Nantz: …uh, okay…

Donald: Put it this way Jim.  If I won the Masters, I couldn't EAT the green jacket, now could I?

Nantz: I suppose not.

Donald: Well, ok, technically I guess I could if I deep-fried and whatnot, but the point is, it would taste AWFUL.  And there's a chance I could be poisoned or choke on a button.  But not a cow, baby.  Pure.  Beef.

Nantz:  How did I get roped into conducting this interview?

Donald: Roped like a steer, Jim?

Nantz: I hate you.

And, SCENE.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Benedict Cumberbatch As A Milk Jug

So, after that intriguing title, I present without further ado....Benedict Cumberbatch as a milk jug.

Credit: Warming Glow

Monday, May 13, 2013

Survivor Ratings: Cochran

Cochran conquers all!  I'm going to withhold my usual "where does he rank amongst the rest of the winners" stuff for two reasons.  One, I'm going to be doing a rewrite of my old Best Survivor Winners post that incorporates the victors from the last four seasons, plus some minor shuffling of the rankings themselves.  Two, as I'll explain below, I'm kind of re-evaluating how to judge these seasons that feature returning players against newcomers.  Anyway, onto John Cochran.

How He Won
: As a student of the show, it's no surprise that Cochran won using the same method that won Parvati S16 and won Sandra S20.  Both of those returning player seasons (Parvati a Fans vs. Favourites, Sandra an all-oldies cast) featured the winners getting to the end within a small core alliance that seemed shaky since it seemed to be constantly cutting off members on the outskirts of that core.

But, as Cochran put it in his (obviously excellent) jury speech, the key was to eliminate these threats before they had a chance to eliminate you.  Parvati, Cirie and company did this en masse to the male players in S16, Sandra sat back and let Russell destroy others and himself in S20 and Cochran did this by scheming to eliminate Andrea and Brenda from the remnants of "Stealth R Us" and getting to the end with his preferred partners of Dawn and Sherri.  I suspect Cochran would've won against virtually any F3 partners aside from maybe Andrea or Malcolm, but since it was Dawn/Sherri, it was no shock that he got a unanimous vote.

So it was basically old-school alliance Survivor with the added wrench of all the returning players being smart enough to know that they needed to make additional moves.  This is where the season's gimmick comes into play and why I'm rethinking my methodology in ranking Survivor winners.  Essentially, most returning players simply have too big an advantage over newbies and when you get a full-on Fans vs. Favourites situation, it becomes a rout.  We saw it in S16 and we saw it here, as the fans quickly fell behind in the tribal portion of the game and then became just cannon fodder for the favourites to use as pawns after the merge.

Now, this isn't to say that this necessarily makes the show uninteresting, though it just makes the pre-merge episodes uninteresting.  I think the producers realized this themselves, which is why 80% of the pre-merge episodes were devoted to Brandon and Phillip's antics.  It's basically a reverse Pagonging --- whereas in most seasons the maneuvering takes place before the merge and one tribe picks the other off once they get an edge, in fans/favourites seasons things only get interesting ONCE the majority of fans are culled and the experienced players then get to battle each other with a few extra fan bodies thrown in as the equivalent to Christian Laettner on the Dream Team.

Sherri, Michael, Eddie and Reynold didn't do anything themselves after the merge, nor were they in position to do anything besides glom onto a favourite and hope for the best.  (Sherri won that little battle, though it was largely because she was the least-threatening of the bunch.)  It's kind of ironic that Cochran won this season since I believe what caused his downfall in S23 was that he himself was kind of starstruck by Coach and thus turned on his old alliance since Coach gave him the time of day and made him feel special.  Cochran was the newbie pawn in his first go-around, now he was the one maneuvering past the pawns this time.

This all being said, Cochran had nine other returnees to deal with, and how he navigated his way past them was very impressive.  He had to deal with just about an equally-smart strategist in Andrea, a very athletic and likeable wild card in Malcolm (who also had the edge since none of the others had seen his previous season), Phillip's nonsense, Erik's under-the-radar danger as both a physical threat yet someone who was seemingly coasting along making no enemies, Brenda's strong physical and social game, and Dawn's newly-aggressive gameplay and seemingly her daily mental breakdowns.

Add the fans to the mix, plus the usual X-factors of injuries (that F5 could've played out much differently with Erik in the mix) and some REAL bullshit with the hidden immunity idols*, and Cochran had to dodge a lot of bullets.  He made a huge improvement over his last appearance, needless to say, similar to how Parvati went from being a seeming token entry in S16 to leaving as the winner and a new reputation as one of the best players ever.  While I'm not going to go that far with Cochran, he definitely showed that his "Survivor genius" label had some real merit.

* = Ok, so the fact that there was another HII for Malcolm to find in the Phillip boot episode was nonsense.  It's been a staple of the show, albeit not a strict rule, that there is one HII for every existing tribe.  Since by this point they were a merged tribe, there should've just been the one idol in play (a.k.a. the other one Malcolm had in his possession) and the previous idol should've been gone from the game.  I am 1000% certain the producers tossed that second idol back into play just to spice things up and see if it could prevent one of Malcolm/Eddie/Reynold from going home that night.  It worked dramatically, given that it led to one of the craziest tribal councils ever, and nobody raised a stink about it since it led to the elimination of the unpopular Phillip, but it was very, very fishy.  A reality show playing fast and loose with the rules for the sake of entertainment?  The hell you say!

Skillset: Well, the guy's a challenge monster, for one!  In all seriousness, though, I enjoyed how Survivor mixed up the challenges this season, creating a nice blend of pure physical tasks and more varied things like willpower challenges or old classics like eating gross food.  It levelled the playing field enough so a non-physical player like Cochran could actually hold his own in the competitions.  There should never be a sense (or reality) that the good athletes have an inherent advantage in the game, since it not only makes things fairer for all involved, it also makes things fairer for the athletes themselves; Malcolm openly said that he was aligning with Reynold and Eddie since they were all in the same boat as "challenge threats."

But obviously Cochran's best assets are his smarts.  He is very good at cutting off future potential threats and backstabbing alliance members, though he did it with no blood on his hands since it was all in the name of the game.  Cochran came off as a bit of a dick in his first appearance, sort of a nerd with a chip on his shoulder like Ken the gamer in S17, and as I wrote about him in the S23 recap, for all of his theoretical Survivor knowledge, Cochran seemed ill-prepared for the fact that the game actually took place outside.

It could be that all he needed was some field experience.  This time Cochran was clearly better prepared to actually last 37+ days outdoors and his rough edges personality-wise were smoothed out (or edited out) and he apparently came off to all like a loveable, self-deprecating good sport who had some serious game.  His sense of humour was likely a big help to a Favourites tribe that had to put up Phillip's Stealth R Us gimmick, Brandon's legit insanity and Dawn's emotional outbursts in the early part of the game, and Cochran/Andrea emerged as a rational core within a scheming, fractured group.

Cochran owes an assist to Dawn for providing the intel on the Malcolm/Eddie/Reynold/Corinne/Michael/maybe Erik power play that led to Corinne's ouster (really dumb move on Corinne's part to tell Dawn, btw), since that was one of those turning points that would've turned his whole game sideways.  Three other moments of luck…Erik's medical evacuation, Phillip falling on his sword during the "three Amigos all have immunity" tribal council since it's possible Cochran could've picked up some votes in the chaos, and the tribal member swap that didn't hurt or devastate Cochran's chances.  If you believe internet scuttlebutt, the tribal swap was arranged so both tribes would still be 4-3 for the Favourites, so Cochran would've probably been safe no matter the alignment.

Could He Do It Again?
: This will be the next challenge for Cochran, since I highly suspect he'll return to Survivor again for at least one more series.  Now that he's stepped up as a legitimate player, his next trick will be to avoid the huge target on his back.  In an all-returning player series, Cochran is a natural early elimination since a) he's a threat, and b) he's not an asset in most team challenges, so he could get an early boot then.  He didn't have to worry about an early exit this time around since his Favourites tribe rarely lost, and when they did, they had Francesca and crazy Brandon to eliminate first.  You'd think that now the "legend of Cochran" as a Survivor savant has grown to the extent that other returning players would be wise to cut him off at the earliest opportunity, like how Cirie got the early boot in her third Survivor series.

Though I have issues with the evenness of a Fans vs. Favourites season in general, Cochran still played a strong game and is a worthy winner.  How worthy?  You'll have to wait until my revised rankings to find out.

/puts winners' names in jar
/walks away
/jumps into speedboat
/boats to CBS studios in New York or Los Angeles

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Brush With Greatness UPDATE

Hey, I can remove those quotation marks

Seeing Kit "Jon Snow" Harington at a recent Maple Leafs playoff match sparked my curiosity about that old Brush With Greatness from March, so I did a bit of Googling.  (Which, frankly, I should've done in the first place.)  It turns out that Rose Leslie was indeed in Toronto that week, as part of a Game Of Thrones exhibit at the Design Exchange.  Since she and Harington are a couple in real life as well as on the show, it stands to reason that he accompanied her to town and then enjoyed the city so much that he decided to return for a Leafs game a couple of months later.

So yeah, I can now stand with confidence that it was a legitimate Brush With Greatness.  Clearly I should've stopped my car in the middle of traffic and rushed over to get autographs, pictures, probably a voicemail recording for my phone and a restraining order.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Commander Riker, Sitting

Before today, "Rikering" could be described as any of four things...
  1. Having a sweet beard
  2. Sleeping with half the attractive alien women who crossed your path
  3. Passing up job promotion after job promotion despite being more than overqualified for your current job
  4. Semi-ruining the career of Iain Glen, a.k.a. Jorah Mormont from Game Of Thrones, since I never remember his character's name and just refer to him as "poor man's Commander Riker."
But that's all in the past now, since "Rikering" will forever be associated with this absurd method of sitting down.  It prompted a chat with my friends Ian and Dave about whether this was some kind of odd actorly quirk Jonathan Frakes added to Riker's character, a logistical necessity given that the tall Frakes had to maneuver himself around the small Star Trek sets (Dave's theory) or Ian's theory that this is simply how Frakes sits down in real life.  As Ian put it, "the idea of Frakes cruising into five-star restaurants and throwing a leg up while ordering a bottle of red is pretty awesome."

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Fun Facts!

* Poetry was known as 'verse' until the 1850's, when the genre became known as poems/poetry due to Edgar Allen Poe's popularity.

* John Candy played two seasons as a backup offensive lineman for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 1970's.

* Julianne Moore and Jeff Daniels used to be married to each other.

* Coca-Cola claimed it "accidentally" included its famous secret recipe as part of a print advertisement that ran in a four-year-old edition of National Geographic.  This led to a mad rush for back copies of NG issues from that year before Coke revealed it was all an April Fool's joke.  The National Geographic Society is actually owned by the Coca-Cola corporation, so there also may have been a bit of a financial motive to spur interest in National Geographic's back catalogue.

* Johnny Carson's prized automobile was a 1955 Cadillac that had 'Car-nak' as the vanity license plate.

* Andy Warhol was originally commissioned to design a cover for the Beatles' "White Album," but dropped off the project after a falling-out with John Lennon.

* Winona Ryder owns a large collection of vintage typewriters.

* Donatello, while a world-renowned sculptor, also wrote two operas that have been lost to history.

* Lou Bega actually released four singles titled "Mambo No. 1," "Mambo No. 2," etc. before finally hitting it big with "Mambo No. 5."

* Catherine Keener's grandfather was a former governor of Rhode Island.

* If you go to Google Maps and look for walking directions from Thorold to Queenston, an ad for Laura Secord Chocolates pops up at the bottom of the map.

* George R.R. Martin's middle names are Rickon and Robert, both of which he used as character names in A Song Of Ice And Fire.

* None of these fun facts are actually true.  They sound vaguely plausible though, eh?

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Starndt Wars

This was also basically my process back in university when I was writing essays, except fast-forward to 6AM when the paper was due at a 9AM class.  And, except for the fact that my essays weren't eventually going to be read by millions of people....though they SHOULD'VE been.  My essay on the role of the narrator in 'The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd' in fourth year English was a masterpiece.  I should post it up here on the blog someday.

By the way, if you ever wanted to know when exactly to stop reading this blog, "the day Mark posts his old school essays" is a pretty good benchmark.