Saturday, August 31, 2013

The "Best" Songs Of The Century

"Hey Ya" won, and deservedly so, thus giving Grantland's "Best Song Of The Millennium" bracket a bit of credibility.  Still, good lord, the logic behind the selection of these 64 competing songs was questionable at best, laughable at worst and an abomination in the eyes of God and man at the capital-W Worst.  Not that I consider Grantland to be the best-all and end-all of pop culture and musical criticism, but it really kills a lot of respect I had for their tastes that this staff of supposedly thoughtful, musically-inclined people not only gave "Ignition (Remix)" a #1 seed, but were then shocked that it didn't rout its way through the competition.

It's impossible to agree on something as subjective as a) music, and b) what the word "best" means in context of 13 years' worth of songs.  File-sharing, YouTube, Spotify, and ok, basically just The Internet has made music fandom as varied as it has ever been, so combing through this fractured mess and picking a lone "Best" song is an impossible venture, let alone 64 of them.  As I noted, "Hey Ya" was an awesome choice yet its victory seems somewhat muted given some of its challengers.  If you invited Roger Federer to your tennis tournament and he won, then that's great, but it's not quite as impressive if his run through your bracket involves wins over a ball machine and Milos from Seinfeld.

First, let's look at the songs in the tournament that were performed by musicians who had other songs that were at least equally good, or possibly WAY better.

* Outkast, "Hey Ya" and "International Players Anthem"
Let's start with the champs.  I can't stress enough what a quality choice "Hey Ya" was, and yet it's bizarre that it was Outkast's ONLY entry on this list.  (I don't even count the UGK song since they were just featured artists on that track.)  Where was "Ms. Jackson"?  Where was "B.O.B."?  I won't lie, I'm not the biggest hip-hop/rap aficionado in the world, but surely either of those songs carry more import and are just fucking better than some of the anonymous one-hit hip-hop tunes that did make the cut. 

* Robyn, "Dancing With Myself"
Ok, it's probably a tossup between this and "Call Your Girlfriend" in terms of cultural import in North America but put it this way, which video did Taran Killam feel the need to emulate in the SNL offices at 4:30 in the morning?  I rest my case.

* Kanye West, "Jesus Walks, "Mercy," "N****** In Paris" (as part of Watch The Throne)
It's hard to say Kanye was under-represented but…if you were summing up the Kanye West experience, would Jesus Walks, Mercy and Paris be the first three tracks that leapt to mind?  Keep in mind that if you were ranking a bracket of the millennium's best albums, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy would be an easy #1 seed and yet nothing from that album made the songs list.  No "Power," no "Monster," no "All Of The Lights," no "Runaway," nothing.  This isn't even mentioning arguably his best single of all, "Gold Digger."

* Jay Z, "99 Problems," "Empire State Of Mind," "N****** In Paris" (as part of Watch The Throne)
Again, you can't argue that Hova didn't make a racket in the bracket anyway, but I would've liked to have been "Numb/Encore" get in there.  Not only was it important as one of the major rap/rock remixes of the modern era, but it also would've gotten Linkin Park into the bracket.  They seem like an omission given their importance and influence in rock music…I'm not a big LP fan but even I acknowledge they were a big deal.

* Daft Punk, "Get Lucky"
Can't help but think that recency bias plays a factor here, since "One More Time" was easily Daft Punk's biggest hit of the last 13 years.

* The White Stripes, "Fell In Love With A Girl"
This is an interesting selection that maybe was also made due to recency bias; everyone loved Silver Linings Playbook, after all.  And really, if I ever made a best White Stripes song list like I did for some of my other favourites, FILWAG is higher than "Seven Nation Army" simply by dint of being a better song.  That said, SEVEN NATION ARMY, people.  The most covered rock song of the decade and probably just most covered song, period, of the decade.  It's this generation's "We Will Rock You."  It should absolutely have been here and been a top-three seed at minimum.  

* Adele, "Rolling In The Deep"
This not only made the bracket, it earned a #1 seed and finished second in the entire thing.  Am I the only one in the world who doesn't care for this song?  Or were people just voting it along since they generally love Adele?  (Or because the song faced some cake competition along the way.)  "Someone Like You" probably wins the bracket if it's entered, I'm just saying.

* Eminem, "Stan"
Man, I don't even like Eminem and I love "Lose Yourself," for pete's sake.  It won a friggin' Oscar.  Perhaps the litmus test here is that at a recent karaoke night, some guy went up to perform "Stan" and it just brought things to a screeching halt.  It wasn't even that bad of a performance, but the song just dies a slow death live.  Whereas if a guy had gone up there to perform "Lose Yourself" and nails it, the place goes nuts.  "Stan" is a relic of its time, whereas "Lose Yourself" is timeless, which is kind of ironic given that it basically just recaps the movie.

* Gorillaz, "Feel Good Inc."
This is the one I'm least upset about, perhaps just out of pure shock that Gorillaz made the bracket at all (shock in a positive way, it was a cool choice).  I could argue for "Clint Eastwood" but again, it's not a major snub.

(There are other artists who could've had 'alternate' song choices on the list but overall, Grantland probably made the right call in picking the best representative of that artist's oeuvre.  For instance, "Bad Romance" is probably the best choice for Lady Gaga.)

Ok, so those are the musicians who at least had something show up, even if it wasn't their best effort.  But what of the notable 21st century musicians who didn't even get an invite to the dance?

* Coldplay.  Possibly the most head-scratching omission, since while it's cool to dislike these guys, it's impossible to argue against their popularity or influence in the last 13 years.  I'd choose "Fix You" as their best track, personally.
* Dixie Chicks.  Country music was, in general, only given a couple of token entries in the bracket and the choices were quickly dispatched.  While I'm not an expert on their discography, the Dixie Chicks probably should've had something in this tournament, right?  "Not Ready To Make Nice" was technically their biggest single, though I'm not a fan of that song; I'm more of a "Travelin' Solider" kind of guy.
* Missy Elliot.  Some other Grantland writers discussed Elliot's omission with the logic being that she was penalized for being "too" ahead of her time.  As in, her production values and musical stylings have been so copied and normalized today that her actual stuff doesn't sound quite as fresh since 75% of the artists in hip-hop are doing today what Missy was doing 10+ years ago.
* Green Day.  Legit shocked that neither "American Idiot" or at least "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" didn't make the cut.
* Gwen Stefani.  No songs for Gwen?  That shit is bananas. 
* U2.  Well of course I'm going to complain about a lack of U2 songs!  "Beautiful Day" should've absolutely been here, no questions asked.  "Vertigo" has a great case as well given that it's a great song, a hit song and The Song That Launched The iPod in terms of cultural import.
* Nickelback, Justin Bieber, Pink, Black Eyed Peas.  Ugh, I know, but I guess if you're going by sheer popularity and cultural import…good lord, wait, this was a bad idea, just pretend I didn't bring this category up.

And our final category, just a bunch of really good, or really big, or really big AND really songs that were omitted entirely since someone at Grantland just had to insist on "Oxford Comma" by Vampire Weekend to be included.  Good lord.

"1, 2, 3, 4", Feist
"Airplanes," B.o.B/Hayley Williams
"Before He Cheats," Carrie Underwood
"Bodyrock," Moby
"Crazy," Gnarls Barkley
"Dog Days Are Over," Florence & The Machine
"Do You Realize," The Flaming Lips
"Fuck You," Cee-Lo Green
"Get Low," Lil Jon
"Here It Goes Again," OK Go
"Hurt," Johnny Cash
"It Wasn't Me," Shaggy
"No One Knows," Queens Of The Stone Age
"Promiscuous," Nelly Furtado/Timbaland
"Pretender," Foo Fighters
"Right Here Right Now," Fatboy Slim
"The Seed, v. 2.0", the Roots
"Somebody That I Used To Know," Gotye
"Tick Tick Boom," The Hives

"Before He Cheats," "Hurt" and especially "Crazy" stand out as the ones that were just flat-out impossibly egregious snubs.  When I first saw the link to this songs bracket on the Grantland website, the first song that popped into my head when considering the millennium's best was…well, okay, it was "Hey Ya," but the second one in my brain was "Crazy."

I look forward to Grantland's next music bracket, which will probably be the best 64 remixes of the Ignition remix. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

I Want To Go To There

Pfft, here I am wasting my time going to Seattle* on vacations when I could be going to one of these majestic locations from around the globe.  One of them is even from the Ukraine!!!!111  My only question is, how many of these 22 places have free wi-fi?

* = just kidding Seattle, you know I love you.  You're arguably my favourite American city.  I like you so much that I'm not even mad about the Fail Mary any moARGH YES I AM.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Orange Is The New Black Is The New Awesome

"Orange Is The New Black" is not a particularly good title.  It's a mouthful, it's hard to shorten and it's somewhat misleading since "____ is the new black" is a strictly a fashionista/trend-setter kind of phrase, and Piper Chapman's character doesn't fit that bill.  This isn't Elle Woods being sent to prison.  Plus, it will inevitably lead to lazy sports headlines whenever an orange-uniformed team (i.e. the Philadelphia Flyers, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, etc.) goes on a roll over the next few months.

So yeah, it's a rough title.  Everything else is basically perfect.  OITNB* is the latest Netflix original series, and one that has caught on as a hit this summer despite the awkwardness of the Netflix release model (more on this later).  It might've actually helped that there was little, if any, buzz about the show leading up to the release, and what buzz there was sounded goofy.  On paper it's a 'comedy' about a yuppie being sentenced to prison that stars Captain Janeway, the American Pie guy and Donna from That 70's Show.  What it actually is is an affecting drama (with some light-hearted moments/plotlines) and, kind of surprisingly, one of the year's better shows.

* = even the acronym is awkward

I always thought that one of the reasons "Lost" took off so wonderfully is that the structure of an episode with real-time action and a character-centric flashback was a great way of handling an ensemble cast, and OITNB sort of does the same thing.  Each prisoner gets her "own" episode where we get a glimpse into her past, and while the flashbacks usually aren't as big a chunk of an episode as they are on "Lost," sometimes even a brief look is all we need (plus Piper usually gets at least one flashback scene of her own per episode).  The OITNB cast is also so large that we still have several major supporting characters that we haven't explored yet --- I can't wait for the one where we finally get to meet Morello's fiancee,* or the sure-to-be-crazy-pardon-the-pun Suzanne episode.  I don't even mind the constant Piper flashbacks since she's a great central character in his own right, so we're nowhere near the Jack-on-Lost fatigue with her flashbacks.

* = my working theory was that "Christopher" was actually a figment of Morello's imagination, but apparently he has come to the prison before, just not since her first three weeks of incarceration.  Since a lot of the flashbacks detail how these hard-bitten criminals are often victims of circumstance, I thought it'd be cool if one of the "nicer" characters was actually revealed as a dangerous maniac in their flashbacks and Lorna is as good a candidate as any.  Also, get this, Yael Stone is Australian.  I kind of figured that (unless Rosie Perez and Jennifer Tilly somehow had a baby) Stone was putting on a fake voice for the role but man, talk about a shift in dialect.

So, the cast.  It's essentially all no-names and "hey, it's that woman" actresses who combine for one of the strongest overall casts to come down the road in a while.  This is a star-making performance for Taylor Schilling as Piper, who's not at all an easy character to capture.  The aforementioned known actors in the cast are all terrific in twisting their established acting personas --- Kate Mulgrew is just having a ball as the hard-nosed Russian prison cook who runs the kitchen and "captains" her charges, Jason Biggs plays his usual "schmuck in a tough situation with a girl" character but obviously the stakes are higher here, and Laura Prepon overlays Donna's "I'm too cool and smart for this" attitude and onto her character of Alex and slowly chips away at it.  And holy lord, do she and Schilling ever have chemistry.

These are just the 'main' characters but, as mentioned, the show's format allows the entire cast to step up and steal scenes or even entire episodes.  Many of the female prisoners are relative unknowns from the New York theatre scene so they're not carrying any past-role baggage into their characters.  Yael Stone IS Morello, or Laverne Cox IS Sophia, Taryn Manning IS Pensatucky, etc.  OITNB is definitely going to be the new Wire or Deadwood* in the sense that I'm never going to be able to see any of these women in future projects without immediately just relating to them as their old characters.

* = though, ironically, Michael Harney actually was on Deadwood and I didn't recognize him until I looked up OITNB on the internet.  Damn you, visage-obscuring 1870's facial hair.

I can't talk about OITNB without talking about Netflix itself since it's the site's latest original series and arguably its biggest hit since it has caught on organically.  "House Of Cards" had the big names and "Arrested Development" was a continuation of an old cult favourite, but OITNB just burst onto the scene almost out of nowhere.  It's another instance where I can't tell if Netflix's model of releasing an entire season at once hurts or helps a show build an audience.  On the one hand, you can dive into it all at once.  On the other, it hurts some of the "hey, are you watching this?  It's awesome" week-to-week word of mouth that has carried so many other great shows to prominence.

Even if Netflix released one episode every two or three days, that would give audiences a little time to digest and discuss it online, i.e. our generation's version of the water-cooler chat.  As it stands, I'm caught up on OITNB now but I think the general buzz of the show maybe wore off a couple of weeks ago…though then again, folks are still discovering it.  And I can't talk about it with them yet since everyone seems to be only a few episodes in, argh!  Okay, so really, this is just a TV nerd complaining that he can't share his opinions with others.  Good thing I have a blog.

So yeah, watch this show.  And good luck trying to get the theme song out of your head --- by this point I'm basically hearing Regina Spektor's "You've Got Time" in my dreams.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Batfleck

This is not a drill, people.  Despite the widespread panic this is generating all over the internet, I'm surprisingly unworried.  To wit...

* Unless Christopher Nolan is firmly in control of the product as director rather than supervising producer, there is no reason to any movie based around a DC Comics character will be anything more than 'meh.'  For example, there was Man Of Steel, which was thoroughly meh despite all the hype and the hopes that it would reboot the entire DC comics universe.  Zack Snyder doth not a great movie make.  So really, I had low expectations anyway about this new Batman. 

* Along those same lines, the role of Bruce Wayne is a very difficult one to cast exactly right.  You need someone who can play haunted and tormented (the 'real' Bruce), coldly smart and professorial (since this is how Batman always comes off to the rest of the Justice League) and also believably goofy for the 'playboy Bruce Wayne' public persona.  Christian Bale pretty much nailed it, Michael Keaton sorta got there and Kevin Conroy at least got the voice and persona down on the Batman cartoons, but it's nevertheless a very tricky role.  While we can joke about Affleck being a C-plus actor at best, there are lots of great actors that simply couldn't handle the role either.  So there was a 95% chance that Warner/DC would screw up the casting anyway, ergo it might as well go to one of the funnier possible options so we can all get a few laughs out of it.

For instance, look at this quote from Snyder in the Variety piece.
Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman. He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne,” Snyder said in a statement. “I can’t wait to work with him.”
Everything about this statement is hilarious.  From Ben Affleck apparently having "chops" to being capable of "layered portrayals" to Snyder apparently thinking that Bruce Wayne the character is supposed to be charming in any way.  Bruce Wayne is not James Bond.  Bruce Wayne is either a) a dark and troubled soul and a virtual recluse in Gotham or b) an outgoing party boy, male Paris Hilton type in order to throw off suspicions.  This is going to be SUCH a misfire that I'll laugh all the way. 

* And really, I'm just glad that we can all get back to mocking Ben Affleck.  He turned into an actual respected director over the last few years and he was deserving of that praise...yet boy, taking the piss out of this guy just feels like the natural order of the world has been restored, eh?  It didn't take much, either.  Six hours ago Affleck was as respected as ever, and then immediately after the news broke he was back to being the ol' Gigli clown again.  Let's be honest, even in Affleck's respected phase, this is still the guy that cast himself as the lead in Argo and as the too cool/too smart/loved by all the ladies lead in the The Town.  This guy is clearly not lacking in ego so it's fun to take him down a few pegs at all times.

* Affleck's presence means we could get Titus Welliver (who's been in all three of Affleck's directorial efforts) as a villain.  Good lord, Welliver as THE JOKER would absolutely melt my brain.  If nothing else it'd at least be a complete departure from Ledger.

* Or, you just know that some clueless Warners exec pitched the idea of Matt Damon as the Joker, a suggestion that even made Affleck embarrassed in its obviousness. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Steve Martin + Kermit

Two childhood idols, teaming up play the banjo.  Sure, it's a song from a weird drama about being terrorized and violated by backwoods hicks but....uh....the Muppets!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Barnes Books

Julian Barnes took the title of "The Sense Of An Ending" from a 1967 book by Frank Kermode, which disappointed me.  I was hoping the title referred to Barnes' own feeling in writing this lean, mean, 150-page masterpiece.  As in, Barnes hit the 150-page mark and suddenly thought, "hey, I was going to keep going, but man, I'm starting to sense that I should end this.  This would be just perfect if I stopped now.  That's it!  Print!  I'm getting myself some tea!"  Then he dusted his hands off in triumph and left the room.

There are no wasted words in Barnes' novel (almost a novella) and it adds up to some of the most enjoyable reads I've had in a while.  The short length adds to the impact --- a jab can do just as much damage as haymaker, after all.

Without getting into spoilers, the basic set-up is this.  The first 50-odd pages are Tony reminiscing about his adolescent school days come four decades in the past, with the chief elements being his relationship with an oddity of a girl named Veronica* and his friend Adrian's suicide.  The second part is set in the present day when Tony suddenly has reason to reintroduce himself to Veronica and…well, I won't even say anything else.  Let's just say his memories are not quite as they appeared, though it's more out of simply forgetting than it is malice.

* = one of the most interesting creations of the Barnes oeuvre.  The scene where she suddenly springs to life and experiments with dancing would be a killer moment in a movie, though I'm not sure a film version of TSOAE would really work given how much of the novel's power comes from vague memories.  Actually seeing the events on screen would remove the foggy recollection that Tony drapes over things.  Veronica, for instance, comes off as mysterious and inscrutable since that's how Tony (an inexperienced and grope-y teenager at the time) saw his first girlfriend.  There's evidence that Veronica, especially in her later years, is indeed an eccentric character yet as is revealed, she has strong reasons for acting this way towards Tony.

I love mysteries that don't even reveal themselves as mysteries until you're well into the text.  An Agatha Christie novel, for instance, is entirely built and structured so that you're "looking for clues" the entire time, and a Christie book is less a novel than it is a puzzle.  Since you aren't consciously looking for clues in TSOAE's first portion, however, you're forced to re-examine things only through your memory of the events (not unlike Tony himself). 

TSOAE is a mystery of human behaviour, not a crime mystery.  Detective stories have a clear Macguffin at their center (who's the murderer, who stole the jewels, etc.) whereas both and Tony and the reader aren't even really sure of what they're trying to find for much of the way.  Barnes, by the way, used to write crime novels under the pen name of "Dan Kavanagh," and I'll be damned if I can find any of those things still in print.  I'd love to read them both because I love Barnes' writing and because after this novel and the next one I'm going to mention, I'm super-interested in seeing what a more conventional crime novel would look like from this author.    

*******

"Arthur & George" also isn't a mystery since everyone with any flicker of historical knowledge already knows how the case resolves itself.  That is, of course, unless you're bereft of a flicker.  This is when my self-imposed rule about not knowing anything about a book until I'm reading it really adds to the experience, in theory.  I didn't realize who "Arthur" actually was until it became patently obvious, and I'd never heard of "George" at all though his case was one of the most famous in English legal history. 

While my own dawning realization added a sense of where-is-Barnes-going-with-this excitement, I feel that reading it with fresh eyes 'may' have left me a bit in the dark about some of the historical details and the true depth of what Barnes was attempting here.  That said, A&G works on both levels --- for the learned it's a wonderful piece of historical fiction, and for the ig'nant, it's almost like fiction unto itself.  For the uninitiated, Barnes builds the character of Arthur so you have a sense of who he is before dropping the big "ohhh, THAT Arthur" bomb (at least it was a revelation to dullards like me).  This is a necessary tactic since this version of Arthur ends up sharing a lot of traits as his most famous literary creation, so it's important for Barnes to clearly note that Arthur is not [NAME REDACTED FOR SPOILER PURPOSES] and [NAME REDACTED FOR SPOILER PURPOSES] is not Arthur. 

What A&G really does is force me into reading "Flaubert's Parrot," an earlier Barnes novel that is arguably considered to be his best.  Even though I'm a big Barnes fan, I've avoided reading this one simply because since I know nothing about Flaubert, I felt most of the references will be lost on me.  Now I think I'll have to track it down since a) I thoroughly enjoyed A&G without knowing anything about the actual historical case and b) it's unlikely I'll *ever* know a lot about Flaubert, so why deprive myself of a great book due to my own ignorance?

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

Quick, a Julian Barnes novel ranking!

7. England, England….satire of English culture that is just a bit too cutely obvious and one-to-one for my liking.  Also, since I'm not English, very possible that a lot of the meaning was lost on my Canadian self.  So much for being part of the colonies.

6. Metroland….somewhat of a coming-of-age story that, come to think of it, resembles the opening segment of Sense Of An Ending.  I don't remember much of Metroland, to be honest, so I may have to revisit this novel at some point.

5. Arthur & George

4. Love, etc.
3. Talking It Over…..These are two parts of the same story.  Barnes wrote TIO in 1991 and then LE in 2001, following the same love triangle 10 years later.  I rate TIO just a bit higher since it was the first instalment and seemed a bit fresher, but LE also have an absolute gut-punch of an ending.  I'm really hoping Barnes is prepping another sequel to revisit these characters again this decade, though the ending of LE perhaps casts a pall on such a novel.

2. The Sense Of An Ending

1. A History Of The World In 10 1/2 Chapters….okay, maybe this is a bit of a cheat since you could argue that this is really a short story collection, but screw it, I straight-up love this book.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Conan Vs. Jordan Schlansky

Conan O'Brien didn't retain many of his old Late Night characters and premises when he moved to The Tonight Show since he wanted to create a fresh vibe, and even fewer of those classic Late Night ideas survived the move to TBS.  One exception has been Jordan Schlansky, who isn't technically a character (though I'd guess he's learned to play it up for the cameras) but rather an actual person, an associate producer on Conan's show.

There's no way of describing Schlansky other than to say he's a metrosexual hipster Vulcan who may or may not be a Patrick Bateman-esque serial killer.  He made his Late Night debut during the writer's strike in 2008 when Conan was filling time simply by interviewing some members of his staff.  Jordan has stuck around since he's just such an odd cat and Conan clearly loves making fun of him/getting exasperated by his behaviour.

Here are a few of Jordan's more memorable appearances on Conan's show…

Jordan's debut


Conan helps Jordan find a place to live in Los Angeles



Jordan is hoarding an espresso machine for himself in the office


Jordan keeps coming in late on Friday


Conan and Jordan go to dinner at an Italian restaurant.  Also notable since Conan clearly gets really drunk and starts acting like a dickhead.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Random Nonsense

So I'm flying back from Seattle last week with my buddy Trev when our United Airlines plane encounters a slight delay.  We had a stopover in Chicago and, upon landing at O'Haire, couldn't actually leave the plane for about 20 minutes since they couldn't find an open gate.  My guess is that a herd of cattle probably wandered onto the tarmac and got in the way, that makes sense.

Anyway, this isn't the first time that Trevor has been held up by United.  He proceeds to tell me about how a delay had prevented him from making his connecting flight on a recent trip, and also led to him losing his luggage.  All of these problems were met by the United staff with a veritable shrug, though it seemed like the connecting flight could've been asked to hold on for the (several) passengers waiting to get onboard.  Not like any other flights were leaving for London, Ontario that day, that's for sure.

The upshot was that Trevor was bemoaning the fact that United was screwing him again, and noted "there was precedent."  To which I replied…

"I guess you could say it was the Precedent of the United Lates."

Trevor just responded with a slight eyeroll.  COME ON.  This was some first-class punnery right here.  I had half a mind to call the Wordplay Hall Of Fame.  I mean, man, that's some great on-the-spot improv, and really, it even had a secondary meaning.  After all, we were in Chicago, and who's from Chicago?  The actual President of the United States!  Hidden depths!  This pun has more layers than an Arrested Development season.

Since I demand adulation for such a great pun, I'm re-telling the story here.  Don't sit on your hands like Trevor, a.k.a. No Reaction McGee.

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The idea for a modern adaptation of "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" has been bouncing around Hollywood for literally decades, and I guess Ben Stiller was the guy left holding the hot potato when the music finally stopped.  So that's fine --- Stiller has a pretty even ratio of good movies to bad, with a higher batting average as a director (Tropic Thunder, Zoolander, Reality Bites, Cable Guy), so in all likelihood, this long-gestating Mitty project was probably going to be pretty decent.

Then the trailer dropped and oh my stars, suddenly this one shot to near the top of my must-see list.  I daresay it's the most a trailer has ever quelled my doubts about a film's viability since The Social Network's immortal choir version of 'Creep' trailer.  As insane as this sounds, could we follow up a Ben Affleck-directed Best Picture Oscar winner with a Ben Stiller-directed Oscar winner?  Jack Black should direct a movie and we can just pencil that in for 2014.    



-------------------

I keep trying to make "gesundteit" happen for coughing, but nobody's buying it.  I just get a lot of funny looks.  Shouldn't there be some kind of post-cough word that we as a society should all agree on?  Better a word than a laboured pun, like "dude, that cough sounded ra-ough."  Nobody needs to see that done to the word 'rough.'

---------------

Question: does Garbage Island have a king?  If not, can I claim it for myself right here and now?  I think I'd make a pretty solid monarch.  There isn't much history of kings named Mark, aside from this guy, who's ruining it for the rest of us.

So basically I need to both reclaim my name and bring some honour to Garbage Island, since really, "Garbage Island" isn't going to bring in the tourists due to the name alone.  (We could get Shirley Manson and company to record a national anthem, but even that can only go far since this isn't 1999.)  I propose we re-name the area Plasticland, sort of a natural sister country to Iceland and Greenland, and yes, I realize Greenland isn't an actual country but how dare you question the wisdom of King Mark Of Plasticia?  I will see your head hung from the tallest spike on the wall surrounding the capital city, Polystyreneville.    

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Since I already posted the supercut of movie references from the Simpsons' first five seasons, it's only fitting I post the Seasons 6-10 supercut as well.  I wonder if the videomakers will keep it going or if they, like so many others, will just pretend the Simpsons ended 13 years ago.



--------------------

I can't drive around Toronto these days without thinking of U2's "Last Night On Earth" video, which had a basic idea that humanity would finally meet its end when everyone on the planet is simultaneously stuck in one giant traffic jam.  Toronto is apparently trying to make this dream a reality by running major and minor construction projects on literally half of downtown, limiting or blocking off entirely both minor side streets and major intersections.

Just last weekend, the city decided it would be a good time to shut down the corner of King and Spadina at the same time as the TTC's downtown subway line was closed for repairs, not to mention completely blocking off both Queen and Richmond streets due to the how-is-this-taking-so-long construction project on York Street.  Combine these with blocking off large parts of the CNE due to it going into carnival mode, the never-ending rebuild of Front Street around Union Station and a couple of Gardiner on-ramps being closed off and you had TRAFFIC CHAOS.  As I noted earlier, it seemed even the side streets had something going on, even if it was something as minor as a pylon and an open manhole that still held up traffic trying to use a shortcut since the main roads were fubar'ed.

I'm no construction expert and I'm sure there are certainly union rules and/or city expense laws governing this, but why not have construction going 24/7 so the majority of work can be done at night when nobody's on the roads?  Split a job up between three crews that work around the clock and something like the York Street project could theoretically be done in half (or a third) of the time.  Sure, it costs more to pay extra workers, but you're a) creating jobs and b) saving drivers, cyclists and TTC commuters a ton of extra stress.

I plan to make this idea a platform of my upcoming mayoral campaign, though the other guy's platform of blaming the Toronto Star and yelling GRAVY TRAIN over and over will be hard to top.

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Mannings Rap

I've been pretty hard on Peyton Manning over the years ("the most overrated quarterback in the NFL") and I kinda hate Eli Manning since the Giants own my beloved Packers.  That said, both men were very good SNL hosts* and are more than willing to make themselves look goofy, i.e. this hilarious ad.  It's much better to look like a fool in a commercial when you're being paid a ton of money than to look like a fool on a football field...uh, when you're also being paid a ton of money.

* = and, to be fair, "very good" in comparison to other athlete hosts, not 'very good' in general.  Like, compared to Wayne Gretzky or Jonny Moseley, Peyton was basically Alec Baldwin. 


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Other People's Writing

Who likes my writing?
Huh.  Well, screw you guys.  Enjoy these writers' projects instead.
 
* Dan Kois of the New York Times profiles Jack "Deep Thoughts" Handey, which is awesome since Jack Handey is the best.  This allows me to link to a list of Handey's 'deep thoughts' jokes from SNL since that was arguably the most reliably funny segment in Saturday Night Live history.  "Instead of a trap door, what about a trap window? The guy looks out it, and if he leans too far, he falls out. Wait. I guess that's like a regular window."

* Hey, remember Ross Rebagliati?  Deadspin's Alan Siegel sure does.

* I won't lie, this is a real puff piece about Joe Biden from GQ's Jeanne Marie Laskas but what the hell, I'll like it anyway since I love Joe Biden, he's a riot.  It's fitting that Biden is Leslie Knope's dream man since I think Biden is a real-life Joe Biden.

* Of all the "this guy was the real brain behind The Simpsons" guys, George Meyer's name seems to crop up the most often.  Splitsider's James Folta looks at one of Meyer's earliest comedy projects, an underground magazine called "Army Man" that has grown to legendary proportions over the years.  It was definitely more well-received than my own comedy magazine called 'Aimee Mann' that was sued into oblivion.  Ironically, no amount of legal representation could "save me" from Mann's lawyers.

* Former wrestling star Diamond Dallas Page has become a workout/yoga guru in recent years, reports Deadspin's Tom Ley, and DDP has taken it upon himself to try and rehabilitate two more ex-wrestling greats, notorious addicts Scott Hall and Jake Roberts.  Given how both men are the poster children for careers wasted by addiction to drugs and alcohol, if Page can pull this off, he's a truly gifted councillor.  Though I dunno, if Hall and Roberts both think Tim Tebow will be a worthwhile asset to the Patriots, that's not a good sign for their sobriety.

* A day in the life at Comic-Con from Grantland's Todd VanDerWerff and yeah, I have to go to Comic-Con at some point in my life.  I even have the perfect costume --- Lex Luthor as Clark Kent.  That's right, it's just my usual bald self in a suit with glasses, and the shirt is opened just enough to reveal a Superman t-shirt underneath.  Either that or go as Bryan Cranston dressed as Walter White in a costume so meta that I just rolled my own eyes at myself.

* The Stoopball League Of America!  I wasn't aware this existed, but Grantland's Louie Lazar has shown us the way.  (Also, "Louie Lazar" is an amazing name.)  Stoopball is not to be confused with 'Snoopball,' and now that I've referenced both Snoop and Rebagliati, I've guaranteed myself at least a couple hundred extra pageviews from confused potheads.

* Who would've thought that a lazy sequel like Red 2 would spawn this interesting column from Grantland's Brian Phillips about how spy movies unleash our inner tourist.  You know, since my mom retired, my parents have been traveling all over the world on various seniors tours.  Is it possible they've actually secret agents and my entire life was the inspiration for Spy Kids?  This isn't not not possible.

* Andy Kaufman's lost tapes, and career in general, are analyzed by Grantland's Alex Pappademas.  I'll be honest, as much as I respect Kaufman's comedy and find many of his bits to be theoretically funny, if I had paid money to see a live Kaufman show and he'd just sat down to read Great Gatsby, I would've been pretty upset.  #CaveatEmptor

* Some goofy-ass questions from Grantland's Shane Ryan about the goofy-ass situation involving Florida Gators linebacker Antonio Morrison "interfering with a police animal."  Don't worry, that's not a euphemism, this really is just a goofy situation.  Ah, college football.