Saturday, November 30, 2013

Getting Lucky Throughout History

Nope, this isn't a link to some weird generational sex ed video.  It's a remix of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" made in the musical stylings of the previous century, decade-by-decade.  It's put together by a French DJ/mixer dude named PV Nova who takes this thing to the next level with a SUPER nerdy cameo and at the clip's end, but still, it's endearing. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Random Nonsense


Every bookmark represents a character death in the Song Of Fire & Ice series.  Yikes.

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As a big Martin Scorsese fan, I'm obviously looking forward to The Wolf Of Wall Street.  While I expect it to be a searing look at modern financial culture, it would also be hilarious if Scorsese just trolled everyone and had DiCaprio literally turn into a werewolf halfway through the movie.  Like, he's living it up as the Wall Street big shot until a full moon and then boom, it just randomly turns into a generic horror movie with WolfLeo roaming the streets of Manhattan.  It'd be Scorsese's hidden tribute to From Dusk Til Dawn in terms of wild plot veers.

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Technically, isn't every book a page-turner?

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Did Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Reptile and Smoke all feel like fucking idiots when they showed up for work in virtually the same outfit?  I'm sure one of their colour-blind co-workers* laughed their heads** off that day.

* = I'm just speculating here, but since one of the other dudes had metal arms and another had a half-cybernetic face, so what the hell, throw some colour-blindness onto the pile

** = very possible "laughing one's head off" is an actual Mortal Kombat fatality

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Arguably the greatest athletic event of our time is given the full 30-for-30 documentary treatment by Yahoo Sports.  "But wait, isn't 30-for-30 an ESPN production?"  Well, yeah, but the athletic event in question is the basketball game from Space Jam, so this one may be a little tongue in cheek.  Hands-down, best segment is the discussion of Foghorn Leghorn's untimely death.

Weird Space Jam-related story,,,.at the Super Bowl party last year, we were killing time before the game and watching Space Jam on another channel.  My pal Matt spent the time criticizing Lola Bunny's wardrobe choices and/or general air of promiscuity.  He made just enough comments to cross the line from 'running joke' to 'wow, Matt clearly had a crush on Lola Bunny as a kid.'

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Have you ever seen a closeup image of an insect's face?  That phrase "cute as a bug's ear" is complete bullshit.

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"This is not a tramp stamp." --- Rene Magritte, defending his back tattoo

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"Wow, check out this awesome new Bob Dylan video" is not a sentence I expected to write in 2013, but here we are.  I've seen music videos with the "random scenes with characters lip-syncing the lyrics" gimmick before, and even a few videos with the channel-surfing gimmick, but never one with both gimmicks combined, and certainly not with this depth and interactivity.  Kudos to Bob Dylan for learning Flash code and putting this video together, since I'm sure that's what happened.

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Quebec's greatest criminal mastermind is known as the Not-Joker, a master thief who rips people off with fake Just For Laughs gags that causes the victims to let their guard down.  He pretends to steal their wallet and purposely gets caught, then he points out his cameraman accomplice across the street.  The victim laughs….and then the Not Joker kicks him in the junk and runs off with the wallet.  It's the perfect crime.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Taming Of The Shrew (Shakespeare Re-Read #8)

In case you actually think I know what I'm talking about when it comes to Shakespeare, keep in mind I'm the same guy who didn't realize "10 Things I Hate About You" was a revised "Taming Of The Shrew" until literally the end of the movie.  Like, they revealed that the school was called Verona High or something and that's what finally clued me in.  Good lord.  Forget the familiar plot or how the characters were literally called Kat and Bianca, it took the friggin' name of the school to lift the fog from my brain.  I'm just lucky I didn't see the high school name and then smugly announce to my friends that we'd just seen a remake of "Two Gentlemen Of Verona."

Anyway, that Julia Stiles/Heath Ledger joint was surely how most of my generation* is familiar
with "Taming Of The Shrew," though it's such a well-worn plot that you might've seen versions of it on sitcoms, in musicals**, or even just on the stage, as TOTS is one of the most enduring of Shakespeare's comedies.  I dare say it's one of the Bard's most well-known stories, adapted a hundred times over on stage and screen throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.  

* = and, not for nothing, that movie is actually really cute.  I daresay that for me, Ledger's first breakout star moment was his song and dance number on the bleachers to impress Kat.  That was one of those 'wow, this guy has some legit charisma' scenes that puts an actor on the map.  Again, what a shame about Ledger. 

** = my high school teacher father took us to his school's production of "Kiss Me Kate" when I was a kid, so that was my first exposure to the material.  In the original text, Petruchio literally says "Kiss me, Kate" at least three times, so that's where that comes from.

So why does a play that, on paper, come off as dinosaurish in its treatment of women still so popular today?  Well, I guess you could argue that this is the era of the Kardashians and the Bechdel Test, so it's not like we're exactly shining beacons of enlightenment in how women are portrayed in entertainment.  The more specific answer in how it relates to TOTS, however, is that it's one of the plays most often heavily re-edited and adjusted from what might have been Shakespeare's original meaning.  My friend Sarah recently saw a production of TOTS at Stratford and noted that Katherine's famous speech in Act V, Scene ii was delivered with the utmost sarcasm by the actress on stage.  Basically the entire meaning of the play was therefore flipped --- Katherine hasn't been tamed, she is merely in the first stages of taming Petruchio herself. 

This is how TOTS is most often interpreted these days; the play becomes a battle of the sexes rather than Petruchio just breaking a woman down with straight-up psychological and physical torment. And let's call a spade a spade here, Petruchio tortures Katherine.  He is literally trying to tame her as he would a falcon, even to the point of starving her and not allowing her to sleep.  It's the sort of wanton cruelty that, even in a modern production, is hard to cast in a farcical light.  One of my pet theories of Shakespeare is that some of his tragedies are so absurd that they're only a few tweaks away from becoming comedies, and TOTS shows that the reverse is true of the comedies.  One theatrical production of TOTS from the 70's played the text as a completely straight drama, making the whole thing terrifying.  The negotiations over Bianca's dowry take on a sinister air of human trafficking and prostitution, while Katherine's treatment the actress portraying her to deliver the final monologue in a flat monotone, as if she'd had the life beaten out of her.  Yikes.  This takes removing the laugh track to the Nth degree.

I noted in my review of "Comedy Of Errors" that while Shakespeare was far and away more mature about writing female characters than many playwrights of his era, he was still susceptible to the stereotypes of his day.  That said, the women in COE were basically Eleanor Roosevelt compared to poor Katherine (and, to a lesser extent, poor Bianca) in TOTS.  This play isn't traditionally thought of as one of Shakespeare's so-called problem plays, since the only 'problem' with its narrative is that it comes off as collar-tuggingly sexist to modern audiences. 

Having said all that, there is definitely evidence that Shakespeare's sexism in regards to TOTS is overstated, and that the Bard specifically intended his play to be satire rather than an actual position on sexual mores.  Hold on, before I begin, let me put on my Shakespeare-defending shoes….ahh, that's the ticket.  You always need proper footwear before embarking on a, "No, really, here's what he ACTUALLY meant" argument to defend a literary icon's shortcomings.

The evidence in favour of Shakespeare taking the same dim view of TOTS as modern readers is threefold.  Firstly, the men are idiots.  Petruchio is completely obsessed with money, only taking an interest in Katherine due to securing a large dowry and to fulfill his boast that he can "tame" any woman.  Baptista Minola cares so little about his daughters that he's willing to literally just sell them off to the highest bidders, even if they're men he's known for about 10 minutes.  Lucentio decides to go through an elaborate charade to win Bianca's heart when, really, he could just present himself as a learned man in the first place and win her that way.  Gremio and Hortensio are your standard buffoons of the Andrew Aguecheek variety.  The servants are all non-descript entities, a far cry from the more developed personalities of most other 'lesser' men in the Shakespearean canon, your Fools or even your Dromios. 

Katherine, Bianca and the Widow are far form being well-developed themselves, but I have a better idea of what makes Katherine tick than I do virtually any of the male characters.  Unless you take the harsh "Petruchio is a torturer" stance in your production, it's very easy to dismiss the men's views on marriage as nonsense.

Secondly, Bianca and the Widow aren't subservient.  The key part of Act V, Scene ii is perhaps not that Katherine wins the bet for Petruchio by showing up (and delivering her infamous monologue) but rather that Bianca and the Widow aren't at their husbands' beck and call.  Bianca, in particular, seems to have gained her own sense of self and independence after being portrayed as nothing more than a trophy for in the rest of the text.  The Widow, meanwhile, has been hardened by marriage already and is definitely Over It when it comes to Hortensio's nonsense.*  This is another hint that Katherine's speech is meant to be dripping with condescension; when Petruchio says afterwards that she could teach the other two a lesson about being "good wives," the implication is that Katherine already has, except in the opposite manner that Petruchio intends.  In the same way that he was overtly kind in his torture of her, it's easy to see Kate beginning to employ the same tactics back in his direction. 

* = I love, by the way, that the Widow is literally just called "The Widow" throughout the play, even by other characters.  Casually referring to a widow solely by that title is such a goofy idea that it supports the concept that Shakespeare is writing this whole thing with his tongue firmly in cheek.

Thirdly, we're watching a play-within-a-play.  One of the oft-omitted portions of TOTS is the very weird introduction, in which we get a completely separate framing sequence of a drunk named Christopher Sly being tricked into thinking he's an amnesiac lord and the play we see is being performed for him by a group of players.  After this introduction, Sly appears briefly once more in the narrative and then we never hear from him again or get any finality to his story. 

The introduction is weird on many levels, namely the fact that it exists at all.  Shakespeare didn't do many (if any) introductions and rarely broke from the strict five-act dramatic structure.  So why this intro here, and why a subplot that is never revisited?  It's possible the answer could simply be that TOTS as we know it is an incomplete text* and that an epilogue revealing Sly's fate has been lost to time.  Another answer is that the intro was simply there to enforce the play's frivolous nature; sort of a more real-world version of the fairies manipulating events in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."  As we know, Shakespeare was very fond of going all meta on his audiences and by making such a pointed reference to the false nature of the story, that further adds to the idea that we're not supposed be taking it so seriously.

* = critics have pointed out several inconsistencies in Hortensio's character and dialogue.  Some of his lines may have been lost or, as some have theorized, the version of TOTS that appeared in the First Folio was actually a rough draft and not a finished product.

So, unsurprisingly, I ended up not taking the play all that seriously, to the extent that I didn't much care for it.  If you put the sexism aside (not that easy, granted), then what you have is an overly-laboured disguise plot that is both too complicated and too straight-forward at the same time.  There aren't any real hitches to Lucentio's plan and nobody is upset when he reveals it, so there isn't exactly a lot of drama in the machinations.  It all adds up to a play that is pretty thin, even for a farce.  You wonder if it'd still be as popular today if it weren't for the sexism, in an odd way.  It stands out as such an overt flaw in many ways that modern directors may feel compelled to "fix" the problem, as it were, by re-drafting Shakespeare's alleged sexism into more palatable ways (we'll revisit this same concept on a more grander scale once I get around to analyzing "Merchant Of Venice").  Hell, this ended up being one of my longer Shakespeare re-read entries despite the fact that I thought the play was weak sauce.  Controversy sells! 

To conclude this post with a lesson for high school students, feel free to use "The Sexism in Taming Of The Shrew" as an entry in your "10 Things I Hate About Shakespeare" essay.

OVERALL RATING: C-

RANKING THE PLAYS THUS FAR
8. Pericles
7. The Taming Of The Shrew
6. Much Ado About Nothing
5. Coriolanus
4. The Comedy Of Errors
3. The Winter's Tale
2. A Midsummer Night's Dream
1. Othello

My New Year's resolution for 2012 was to re-read (and in some cases, read for the first time) all 38 of William Shakespeare's plays.  2012 has long since ended, but still, onward and upward.  And, since in these modern times it's impossible to undertake a personal project without blogging about it, here are a series of reviews/personal observances I'll make about the plays.  Well, 'reviews' is a bit of a stretch.  It's William goddamn Shakespeare.  What am I going to tell you, "Don't bother reading this one, folks!  What a stinker!  Ol' Mark doesn't like it, so you should definitely believe ME over 400 years of dramatic criticism!"

Friday, November 22, 2013

Aningaaq

 Gravity is one of the year's best films, and what I think I love most about the movie is how Alfonso Cuaron stuck so closely to the drama in space.  There were no flashbacks to Ryan and her daughter, no cuts to Earth or the NASA command centre, no cutaways to see how Clooney is getting along.....the entire focus is on Ryan and her attempts to survive. 

Outside of the movie itself, however, there's room for some creativity.  This is "Aningaaq," a short film by co-writer Jonas Cuaron (Alfonso's son) about the person on the other end of Ryan's distress call.  I guarantee it'll be the best short you see all year....set in Greenland.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Other People's Writing

Grab your passport and hop onto the next flight to Grantland for this collection of quality writing by people without Riddler avatars….

* Jay Caspian Kang details the odd situation behind a group of teenagers who broke into the home of former NFL player Brian Holloway's house and trashed the place via a huge party.  Holloway has since launched a big campaign to both identify/shame the kids involved on social media, and also to get help to rebuild his home, and both efforts are drawing a lot of controversy.  I'll be honest, Holloway lost me at "referenced Ayn Rand on multiple occasions."  And I'll be doubly honest, as interesting as this story is, it pales in comparison to Holloway's claim that Michael Jackson rigged Super Bowl 20, which should be a 10,000-word expose unto itself.

* Tess Lynch writes about how being a parent tends to make you a pop culture hermit (and kind of an actual hermit), with Sesame Street's spoofs being one of a parent's few connections to the outside world.  My mind was blown when I recently learned that Lynch is Jane Curtin's daughter, which makes it kind of odd that Lynch is Grantland's SNL reviewer.  The reviews aren't particularly noteworthy, which probably makes sense given the Curtin family's general disinterest in SNL, despite Jane's pantheon cast member status.

* Wesley Morris' awesome review of 12 Years A Slave, one of the year's best films and assuredly its most powerful.  I watched this movie and All Is Lost on the same day and afterwards, I just wanted to curl up into a ball.

* Amos Barshad profiles the life and career of Danny Trejo, star of maybe the year's least-powerful film, Machete Kills.  Ninety minutes of stupid fun, sure, but 'powerful' isn't the first adjective that leapt to mind.

* Ben Lindbergh rates the 21 best deep-cut Paul McCartney tracks.  I have no idea if he's right or not since seriously, who rates Paul McCartney's solo work?

* Alex Pappademas chronicles the rise and fall of Blockbuster Video, and by extension the history of video rental places.  I'm not going to lie, I miss going into video stores and just browsing away at all those random titles on the wall.  Toronto has the very great Queen Video outlets, but still, I miss the random enjoyment of picking a crappy action movie solely based on how goofy the poster looks. 

* I must've been a good man in another life, since I've been rewarded with TWO Ken Dryden pieces.  The first is about his "day with the Stanley Cup" in both Etobicoke and tiny Domain, Manitoba.  The second is your typically well-reasoned Dryden piece, this one on concussions in sport and focused around Tony Dorsett, of all people.

* Charles P. Pierce has an elegiac look at the history of Ireland's Listowel Races.  I absolutely, positively have to visit Ireland at some point in my life, and not only due to my family's history of running into U2 members.

* Zach Lowe praises the Raptor, the great Toronto Raptors mascot who couldn't perform this season due to a torn Achilles tendon.  I've always suspected the Raptor was played by my friend Eric, who briefly had the nickname of "Rap-Tor" (with that specific pronunciation, for some reason) due to the fact that he wore an enormous Toronto Raptors cap for his Grade 10 class photo.  The evidence against my theory is that Eric lives in London so regular commutes to NBA games in Toronto would be difficult, and Eric (while a heck of a pitcher and middle infielder in his house league baseball days) may not quite be athletic enough to pull off the Raptor's acrobatic moves.  Whatever, I know I'm right.  Anyway, I was about to say that the Raptor's injury would be par for the course for the Raptors' sure-to-be-terrible season, but as I write this, they're leading their division.  Sure, their record is 5-7 and they're only in first place since the Knicks and Nets have been godawful so far, but hey, first place, baby!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Breaking Bad's REAL Ending

From internet running joke to easter egg FOR the internet!  Honestly, if this had been the show's actual ending, I only would've been 80% disappointed.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

UFC 167 Predictions

Whoa, a UFC picks post?  How old-school!  I gave up on the monthly UFC predictions because they simply started cranking out too many cards for me to keep up, and I didn't want to turn this into a makeshift MMA blog.  But, this was a special occasion since UFC 167 marks the 20th anniversary of the very first UFC show, plus it could be the last time we see one of the all-time greats step into the cage.

* Tyron Woodley over Josh Koscheck, decision
That's right, it'll be Josh Koscheck's last bout!  (Kidding)  I'd imagine that even if and when Koscheck loses, he'll still get another fight despite what would be a three-bout losing streak.  Kos is just too notable a name in UFC history for the company to cut on the normal three-strikes-you're-out rules, though four straight losses would do it.  Since Koscheck got decimated by Georges St. Pierre, he's knocked out a washed-up Matt Hughes, narrowly won a controversial split decision over Mike Pierce, narrowly lost a controversial split decision to Johny Hendricks and gotten KTFO by Robbie Lawler.  So in short, it's been weird --- it's easy to say that GSP basically ended his career, but that split over Hendricks is a real eye-opener.  Koscheck didn't exactly look good in that fight, but he did enough to grind one out, and he could quite possibly do the same to Woodley.  Speaking of dull grinding decisions, Woodley's last fight was a loss to Jake Shields, and with losses to Shields and Nate Marquardt, it's possible Woodley is a gatekeeper type who can't hang with the bigger dogs at welterweight.  Of course, the only question here is if Koscheck still counts as a big dog.  I say no, but this fight could absolutely go either way.  The only guarantee is that it'll be dull.

* Rory MacDonald over Robbie Lawler, submission, R2
This one is a total "what have you done for me lately?" matchup.  Everyone suddenly became a Rory Mac hater after his dull win over Jake Ellenberger, despite the fact that since Ellenberger did jack-all in that fight, Rory had no reason to abandon a jab-centric game plan that was working to perfection.  Lawler, meanwhile, had a pedestrian win-one/lose-one record for the last few years before knocking out (a possibly washed up) Koscheck and a semi-can in Bobby Voelker.  Those two knockouts have a lot of people on the Lawler bandwagon after several, several years.  Is there a chance at an upset?  I highly doubt it.  Lawler has a puncher's chance but MacDonald has proven himself to be the better fighter and is maybe the best in the division besides GSP.  It should be noted that one of the sidebars of the St. Pierre retirement rumours is that he'd be doing it in part so his teammate and protege MacDonald could step into the spotlight, which I believe has some merit.  GSP does take an almost parental interest in MacDonald (who revers his hero and has always seemed nervous just to consider fighting him) and I could totally see him passing the torch.  Whether MacDonald is ready to take over as the UFC's big Canadian marketing draw is another question but hey, I'm not paying their bills, so what do I care?

* Ali Bagautinov over Tim Elliott, decision
Big fight here in the still-thin flyweight division.  The problem is that Mighty Mouse Johnson is seemingly as dominant a champ as there is in the UFC, and he's already beaten top challengers Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson.  The larger problem is that Benavidez and Dodson are *also* seemingly head and shoulders above everyone else and between them they've cleared the decks of other challenges, which is why Joey Benz is getting another crack at Johnson in January.  Dodson has one win since losing his title bout and he could win another in January as well over Scott Jorgensen, so Dodson could get a return bout too.  In short, flyweight is desperate for some fresh contenders and the winner here could put him up for a #1 contenders' bout against John "Let's Hope He Makes Weight" Lineker.  I'm narrowly picking Bagautinov here since he's been on a huge roll in Russia and through his first UFC bout, while Elliott has been less impressive (though he's only lost to Dodson in the UFC).

* Chael Sonnen over Rashad Evans, decision
The only thing I'm certain of is that this fight will go the full 15 minutes.  Other than that, who knows.  Evans is good at grinding out unimpressive wins, though given Sonnen's own wrestling pedigree, that strategy might not work.  There's also the fact that Evans hasn't really looked good in a fight against a non-washed up opponent (hi Tito!) in years.  Decision wins over Thiago Silva, Rampage, Phil Davis and Dan Henderson that made you shrug your shoulders, the huge knockout loss to Lyoto Machida, the one-sided decision loss to Jon Jones and the horribly boring decision loss to Little Nogueira --- that's all Evans has done since 2009, minus the rout of Tito Ortiz.  Sonnen also has a recent win over a possibly washed-up legend in his chokeout of Shogun Rua, and while I'm still not sure Sonnen is really a legit fighter anymore or just a glorified UFC public relations guy, he's still shown better form lately than Evans.  If nothing else, the post-fight promo will be entertaining.

* Georges St. Pierre over Johny Hendricks, decision
Well, of course.  What other result can there be for a GSP fight?  Hendricks is a hell of a fighter, has a monster left hand and is a terrific wrestler --- it's the sort of pedigree that can give St. Pierre trouble on paper, yet is also theoretically easy to defend with a good game plan.  Hendrick is like Koscheck except with better wrestling and a better big punch from the other hand, but we've twice seen how GSP has been able to handle Koscheck.  For all Hendricks' wrestling prowess, Rick Story and Koscheck were able to hang with him and GSP is the best MMA wrestler of all time.  Add this to the fact that Hendricks was showing some fatigue in his third round against Carlos Condit, and you wonder if this will just be as simple as St. Pierre riding out a decision if he can just avoid that big left in the first two rounds.  Now, what's interesting is that cardio machine GSP actually looked a bit winded in his previous two fights, though those could be explained by the fact that a) he was facing Carlos Condit after a 19-month layoff and b) he then fought Nick Diaz, who puts anyone's cardio to shame.  GSP at even 80% cardio is still a beast, but it could be a sign that he isn't as invincible as he once was.  There's a scent of an upset in the air in the wake of Chris Weidman beating the seemingly-unstoppable Anderson Silva but I doubt we'll see the other pound-for-pound legend drop his belt in the same six-month span.

Speaking of that invincibility, the hot rumour has been that GSP will go out on top and retire if he beats Hendricks on Saturday.  You can definitely make the argument that St. Pierre has nothing left to prove; he's already an all-time legend, his famously intense training regiment has left him drained, he lost a bit of his hunger after his long layoff for knee surgery, and a win over Hendricks will mean that GSP has essentially cleaned out the welterweight division twice, which is crazy.  Rather than risk his health in a decline phase, Georges could possibly hang up the gloves (even on a loss) and turn matters in the welterweight division over to Rory in a Dick Grayson-becomes-Batman move.  It's worth noting that UFC officials and many in GSP's camp have denied the retirement rumours, but we won't know for sure until the Hendricks fight is over.

It'll be hard for me as an MMA fan to see St. Pierre retire, if this is indeed it.  As the maple leaf on my passport would indicate, I'm a big GSP fan and he's my favourite fighter.  Georges is the only fighter for whom I'm legitimately nervous every time he's in the cage since I'm rooting for him to win so badly.  By the same token, if he decides to retire, it's hard to argue that he's already given UFC fans more than enough over the years.  Better to go out now than to suffer an embarrassing loss like Silva, or even worse, a series of embarrassing losses like Chuck Liddell or Shogun Rua when you're clearly past your prime.  My hat is off to St. Pierre if he retires, and let's hope he gives us one more fine memory on Saturday.

Undercard…..
* Jason High over Anthony Lapsley, submission, R2
* Sergio Pettis over Will Campuzano, decision….that's the 20-year-old younger brother of Anthony Pettis, by the way.  Interesting bout here for the unbeaten youngster and he's facing Campuzano on short notice, but I'll pick him in part just because of the Pettis family name.  After all, Brent Gretzky was just as good as his brother, right?
* Erik Perez over Edwin Figueroa, decision
* Donald Cerrone over Evan Dunham, decision….couple of dimmed stars here, though Cerrone is just a gatekeeper kind of guy.  Dunham was the one who looked really special early in his career but just hasn't lived up to that potential.
* Gian Villante over Cody Donovan, knockout, R3….battle of the Ovince St. Preux victims!  Loser might get cut.
* Thales Leites over Ed Herman, submission, R1….can't believe I'm seeing a Leites/Herman fight on a UFC card in the year 2013.
* Rick Story over Brian Ebersole, decision…..if Hendricks wins the belt and Story can string together three or four wins in a row, he might have a title shot case as "the only guy to beat Hendricks."  Story's current streak stands at, uh, zero wins in a row, so he'll need some work.  I'll pick Story here in my "always pick against the guy who hasn't fought in over a year" strategy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The 55 Best Pearl Jam Songs

I'm not *crazy* about Pearl Jam's new record, Lightning Bolt.  I quite enjoyed listening to the disc and then completely forgot about almost every song as soon as it was over.  Listened to it a second time, enjoyed it even more and then boom….five minutes after it was done, I could hum nary but a few tunes on command.  It could still be a grower, sort of like how I'm enjoying Backspacer a lot more now than I did in 2010.

Fortunately, my Pearl Jam fandom is no worse for wear given that I caught their concert in Buffalo last month.  It was my third time seeing the band and the show was as good as ever, despite my unfamiliarity with the newer tunes (the record hadn't actually been released yet).  I will say, though, that "Sirens" was an immediate crowd favourite and works awesomely well as an arena anthem.  I'll also say that the ol' First Niagara Center is a pretty nice venue --- has kind of a vibe of being like a really nice local hockey rink, just enormous and with a lot of money put into it.  The only downside is the Sabres.

Anyway, since I'm in a Pearl Jam mode right now and they're one of my all-time favourites, they're a natural choice for my latest "best songs" post.  As always, these are the tunes that I'd cite as my favourites --- not that there aren't lots of other good ones, but these are the 55 that I thought were the tops.  It's possible there are some obscure B-sides that I haven't heard (especially since Pearl Jam have more random tracks than most bands) but overall, I think I've had a pretty good listen to their catalogue and have covered most of the bases.

While all three of my past lists have been subjective, this one felt moreso, for some strange reason.  Maybe only the top 7-8 are locked, whereas lots of other songs within the top 30 could easily be shuffled around if I were to write this list again in just a few months' time.  If I've left your favourite Pearl Jam tune out, just presume it was #56 and I'm leaving it off out of passive-aggressive spite.  You shouldn't have pissed me off like that!

Enjoy the list!

55. Hard To Imagine
54. Footsteps
53. Porch
52. I Got Id
51. Soon Forget
50. Future Days
49. Amongst The Waves
48. Thumbing My Way
47. Pendulum
46. Release
45. Low Light
44. Who You Are
43. All Or None
42. Nothing Man
41. Of The Girl
40. Leash
39. State Of Love And Trust
38. Indifference
37. Brain Of J
36. Wishlist
35. Let Me Sleep
34. In Hiding
33. Breakerfall
32. Off He Goes
31. Thin Air
30. Light Years
29. Yellow Ledbetter
28. MFC
27. Gone
26. Force Of Nature
25. Given To Fly
24. Drifting
23. Sirens
22. Worldwide Suicide
21. Corduroy
20. Down
19. Black
18. Not For You
17. Love Boat Captain
16. Jeremy
15. Hail Hail
14. Come Back
13. Go
12. Animal
11. Daughter
10. Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
9. Insignificance
8. The Fixer
7. Even Flow
6. Do The Evolution
5. Present Tense
4. Life Wasted
3. Better Man
2. No Way
1. Alive

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Gre...An Event In Television History

That's IT?  Come on, I expect at least 60-90 seconds for my stupid opening title recreations!  Anyway, Catherine O'Hara should be the prime minister of Canada.


Friday, November 08, 2013

Ordinary Batman

From the mind of artist Sarah Johnson comes this hilarious GIF series.  It's not often to can refer to something Batman-related as "cute," but here you have it.




Thursday, November 07, 2013

Bad Quarterback Blues

I realize this sounds like the douchiest, most entitled, most #firstworldproblems thing a football fan could say, especially one who realizes just how rare and lucky I've been as a Packers fan to enjoy basically 21 unbroken years of elite-to-very good quarterback play in the form of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers…

….but man, how can you fans of teams with bad quarterbacks stand it?

As Joni Mitchell sang in her time-traveling cover of that Counting Crows song, you really don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.  I never knew quite how much I've appreciated the Aaron Rodgers experience until his horrifying, terrifying* fractured collarbone injury on the VERY FIRST FUCKING OFFENSIVE DRIVE of Monday's game against the Bears.  Suddenly, here came Seneca Wallace, and god help me, I had actually forgotten who the Pack's backup quarterback was until that moment.  Wallace had a thoroughly mediocre game the rest of the way and Green Bay ate what would end up being a critical loss to the Bears.

* = not in a Joe Theismann-broken-leg kind of way, just gruesome in its impact on Green Bay's season.

I happened to be watching the game with my pal Malcolm, a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan, who could only grimly nod in recognition at seeing Wallace stink it up.  I've actually brought up the Bill Simmons ground rules for switching your sports allegiances to poor Malc in the past out of sheer pity for seeing him throw his support behind such a lost cause.  After this game, I can understand why he's taken such joy in EJ Manuel for showing even a hint of promise as the Bills' (latest) quarterback of the future.

A good QB makes everything else seem better, and a bad QB simply makes everything worse.  Buffalo has a pretty solid unit this season and could easily be better than 3-6 had they simply not had such wretched injury luck with their quarterbacks.  Ditto the Browns losing a lot of winnable games since they stubbornly had to go with Brandon Weeden for so long despite Weeden being arguably the worst player in football.  On the flip side, look at the Chiefs, who are 9-0 after going 2-14 last season with largely the same roster except for upgrading to the C-minus Alex Smith at quarterback from the F-minus-minus slugs they behind center last year (Andy Reid coaching instead of Romeo Crennel obviously also helped).

Or, look at the Packers.  Rodgers' brilliance has helped them overcome a swath of injuries over the last four seasons.  No matter how banged up the team gets, Rodgers keeps them above water, even carrying a very undermanned Green Bay squad to a Super Bowl title.  Without Rodgers, god, I shudder to think.  I'm hoping Wallace was simply caught off-guard on Monday and will be better with a full week of preparation but yeah, there's literally nothing in his career history that makes me think this work out.

Going into Monday, the Packers were 5-2 and had a very winnable matchup against the Bears (themselves missing their starting QB in Jay Cutler).  A win would've left Green Bay sitting pretty in the NFC and more or less wrapped up their division  Now, at 5-3, the Packers are tied with both Chicago and Detroit and god knows what will happen.  With Rodgers, the Packers were a few breaks away from getting back to the Super Bowl, provided that they could've avoided the 49ers in the playoffs and gotten the Saints and/or Seahawks at Lambeau Field.  Without Rodgers, the Packers might not even make the postseason altogether.

With Rodgers set to miss roughly 4-6 weeks, let's see the schedule breakdown...

Week 10, hosting the Eagles.  With Rodgers it's an easy win given how Philly hasn't beaten a good team all yet.  Nick Foles makes them a good offensive team but obviously they won't put up the points against Green Bay's defence that they did against Oakland last week.  It's a very borderline win for Green Bay this point.

Week 11, at the Giants.  I'm chalking it up as a loss.  As bad as the Giants are this year, they've owned the Packers for the last several seasons and even with Rodgers, I would've been scared of this game.  I blame it on Favre for laying down for Michael Strahan's record-breaking sack years ago, thus giving the Giants loads of karmic edge over Green Bay for all eternity.  Dammit, Brett.

Week 12, hosting the Vikings.  Still thinking of this one as a win given that the Vikings are a tire fire right now.  Oh god, wait….a good team hindered by a huge hole at QB?  Oh lord, the Packers have become the Vikings.  Shoot me now.

Week 13, at the Lions.  This could've been the earliest possible return date for Rodgers, except it's a damn short week for the Thanksgiving game.  This is the first time I've ever been mad about seeing my team get the usually easy national game against Detroit on Thanksgiving.  Now I've got to call this a loss.

Week 14, hosting the Falcons.  Still likely a win given how inexplicably poorly Atlanta has done this year.  No running game, old defence, Roddy White is washed up, Julio Jones got hurt….yeah, maybe we should've/could've seen this coming.  Speaking of national games, this is supposed to be the Sunday Nighter but without Rodgers, I'm guessing the Packers get flexed out.  Perusing the schedule for Week 14, Carolina/New Orleans, Seattle/San Francisco, Indianapolis/Cincinnati and even Tennessee/Denver stand out as games that could be slotted into primetime instead.  I suspect FOX will protect Seahawks/Niners, Denver may have used up its allotment of primetime games already and thus we'll get the Panthers and Saints on Sunday night as long as Carolina keeps up their surprising good form.

Week 15, at the Cowboys.  Here we go.  This is the sixth week, and while collarbone injuries are tricky, I'm hoping and praying that Rodgers is back to lay the smack down on the hated Cowboys.  Of course the game is in Dallas since if I'm not mistaken, there's an NFL bylaw that states the Packers can never, ever host the Cowboys.  Seriously, it's terrible that….er, well, actually, the Packers have hosted four of the last five matchups between the two teams.  Huh.  Pays to look things up!  I may still be influenced by my childhood when the Packers played SEVEN STRAIGHT GAMES against the Cowboys at Texas Stadium from 1993-96 and lost every single one.  Damn you, NFL scheduling matrix.

So that's only two of the six games that I'm comfortable saying will still be wins, with two seeming losses and two tossups (this week, plus the Cowboys game -- they win with Rodgers, lose without him).  Ughhhhh.  The worst part is, this isn't a tough schedule.  With Rodgers in the fold, I wouldn't have been shocked to see Green Bay beat the Bears on Monday and then sweep the rest of the way.  The last two games were hosting the Steelers and then the reverse fixture in Chicago, so those would've/could've been wins too.  That's right, a damn 13-3 record was on the table.  If Rodgers misses the full six weeks, the best-case scenario is only 8-6.  Even with wins in the last two games, I doubt 10-6 would be enough to win the division and it might not even be enough to make the playoffs.  9-7 seems like it'd have no shot at anything.

The only, ONLY bright side to Rodgers being out is that it has happened in the first season in a long time when the Packers haven't been totally reliant on the passing game.  Eddie Lacy has been a revelation but you wonder if the rookie has been able to find so much room because teams are focused on stopping the pass.  Opponents might just stick eight men in the box and dare Lacy to run on them since they won't be as worried about Wallace picking them apart downfield.

I'm really, really hoping that the Packers can again overcome a major injury and keep on being a quality team, but Rodgers is so far and away the key piece of the roster that I don't see it happening.  Seneca Wallace, if you want to pick this month to have the best four weeks of your football life, that would be awesome.  Until I see that, though, I'll have to slum it like 90% of other football fans and be worried about my team's quarterbacking situation.  I feel so…so dirty.  Oh my god, the dirt's not coming off!