Sunday, October 30, 2016

This Year's Halloween Costume

The Guy Who Thinks The Thermostat Could Be Turned Down Just A Notch, Doesn't Want To Make A Big Deal Of It, But Is Being A Bit Too Passive-Aggressive About It

"Hey, great party!  Yeah, I'm having an awesome time.  Little warm, no doubt, but hey, I'm hanging in there."

"I guess my costume this year ended up being Mister Backsweat!  Ha ha!  But seriously though…"

"Great turnout, SO many people showed up in so many great costumes!  I'm just spitballing here, with this many folks in the room, we don't want everyone uncomfortable, especially when they're in these bulky costumes.  I'm just looking out for the group's best interests."

"Standard room temperature is 20-21 degrees Celsius, so really, I don't think it's too much to ask…"

"Hey, is it just me, or..."

"Really, with utility bills being what they are these days, keeping it cool is just a sensible way to save money."

"Oh hey, I hear what you're saying.  Believe me, I don't like it when it's cold, it's not like I have any hair to protect me on my head!  Ha ha!  That said, just a degree or two less would be PERfection."

"Nice vampire costume!  I wish I was naturally cold-blooded like you right now.  Ha ha!"

"Whew!"  *theatrically wipes brow*

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Stranger Christmas

Is the Upside-Down any more terrifying than the weird, passive-aggressive reality of the Peanuts world?  Only time....will tell.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mighty Observations

The unsung hero of the old "Casey At The Bat" poem is clearly the player hitting after Casey in the Mudville lineup.  Casey is Mr. Everything superstar, yet Mudville's opponents don't seem to even consider intentionally walking him to set up a force play at any base for the third out.  Mighty Hitter-After-Casey must've been the real threat, or maybe the opposing team was trying for some lefty vs. righty matchup strategy or something.

Or, maybe the opposing team knew they could fool Casey since they knew he was a gigantic egomaniac who'd apparently let two strikes sail right by him because they "ain't his style."  One needn't be a baseball stats guru to know that the pitcher gets a huge edge on an 0-2 count, so this was just a ridiculously cocky move from Casey.

If I'm reading the poem correctly, this was some innovative lineup usage from the Mudville manager.  Common sense would seem to dictate that you'd always put your best hitters at the top of your lineup to ensure they'd get the most at-bats, though for years, teams tended to want a "leadoff man" type of a quick base-stealer who didn't necessarily always get on base at a proper clip.  Not Mudville --- here's big slugger Casey, ostensibly hitting leadoff.  One has to assume that Flynn and Blake were the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup given their ignominious (and vaguely homophobic) designations as a "lulu" and a "cake."

That is, unless, it was actually HORRIBLE lineup construction and Flynn was hitting leadoff because he was fast and Blake was hitting second due to....uh, it isn't clear.  That would put Casey in the #3 spot in the batting order, traditionally reserved for a team's best batter.  This actually might be the most logical scenario since if my previous theory was correct, Blake the #9 hitter would've been the pitcher.  (CatB was written well over 80 years before the creation of the designated hitter rule.)  Surely you'd think the poem's author would cut Blake some slack for his inability to hit if he was actually a pitcher, that seems unfair.  Then again, this was 1888; hitting your pitcher ninth wasn't a hard-and-fast rule at this point.  Mudville's pitcher could've really been hitting anywhere in the lineup while Flynn and Blake were just regular position players who stunk and were thus the #8 and #9 batters.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Crazy Ex-Bloopers!

The second season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend begins tomorrow!  Yayyyyy!   Let's get in the mood by watching some bloopers from the first season...(NSFW, btw)


...and also one of Rachel Bloom's many pre-CExG music videos.  They're all pretty funny but "Die When I'm Young" is a masterpiece.  It is also very NSFW, which makes me wonder if Bloom's original vision of the show as a half-hour, R-rated cable program would've made it better or worse.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Timon Of Athens (Shakespeare Re-Read #19)

It’s a little unusual that Timon Of Athens is one of the lesser-known and least-performed of Shakespeare’s plays, since of his entire oeuvre, this is the one that might be most relatable to modern audiences.  As you might expect, quite a few concepts that seemed normal to Elizabethan audiences are alien to 2016 readers, yet TOA could essentially have been written yesterday in terms of its overarching themes. 

Some critics have argued that the play’s story is more simplistic than simple, so combined with the admittedly weird story structure, TOA is usually ranked near the bottom of the Shakespeare rankings…but not my rankings!  It’s a flawed work, to be sure, though I actually quite enjoyed a straight-ahead morality tale.  There aren’t many shades of grey here — Timon is the well-meaning but foolish protagonist, his usurers are all absolute slimeballs, Flavius is incredibly loyal and Alcibiades’ somewhat shaky moral ground is excused because he has such a badass name.

If I was reading this in a university English class, there would undoubtedly be at least one person (probably a business student) who made the argument that “well, the three lords weren’t in the wrong to not lend Timon some money.  After all, they knew he’d just spend it anyway!”  This guy would be an enormous jerk, and while he would technically be right on two counts, consider that Lucius had one of his own guys among the many representatives at Timon’s place wielding bills.  I don’t think it was ever exactly stated in the play, but I got the impression that Lucius’ “bill” was generated when he gave Timon a gift and Timon insisted on paying for it rather than receive generosity himself.  So Lucius is just a world-class weasel to actually charge Timon for it.

Though really, Timon, what the hell, man?  Demanding to pay full price for gifts you yourself receive?  That takes spendthrift-iness to a new level.  That’s the only real instance where you have to scratch your head at Timon’s spending, since otherwise, the poor guy is simply (literally) generous to a fault.  Consider how often a Shakespeare reader finds himself getting angry with the “tragic hero” when they do something really dumb to bring ruin upon themselves.  With Timon, it’s just like…oh, honey.

Though really, this is one of those tragedies that tends to veer a bit closer to Problem Play territory given that, even though Timon isn’t there to enjoy it, he gets his revenge.  He gets his riches more or less restored by the gold he finds in the woods, and then he basically unleashes the four horsemen upon Athens — War and Conquest (Alcibiades), Plague (the venereal diseases he encourages the whores to spread around town) and Death (the ultimate fate of Lucius, Sempronius, Lucullus and the other senators and non-lenders within the ten percent of the population that Alcibiades wipes out).  The actual tragic protagonist of the title might be Athens itself, given how the lack of generosity of its most notable citizens sort of leads to its conquest, though it isn’t totally clear whether or not Alcibiades’ army was entirely funded by the gold.  He might’ve been able to conquer Athens without Timon being involved whatsoever, which would have the effect of making Timon into the Inglourious Basterds and Alcibiades into Shosanna Dreyfus.  Regardless, I guess if Timon hadn’t been so angry, he might’ve been able to save the city as its de facto leader given the mutual respect between he and Alcibiades.

One kind of has to read into the story like this given how the play is often considered to be unfinished given the relative lack of depth.  Since critics often try to excuse Shakespeare’s lesser plays by assuming the so-called non-Shakespearean elements were the work of a collaborator, Thomas “Thrown Under The Bus By History” Middleton is often considered to be the co-writer on this one.  Poor Middleton.  At least he got the last laugh by having his future ancestors marry into the British throne (citation needed).  As always, I note that Shakespeare wasn’t infallible — maybe the guy was experimenting with something out of his usual comfort zone and it didn’t quite work.  For all we know, maybe Middleton salvaged a workable play out of a rougher draft that would’ve really put a black mark on Shakespeare’s record.

Apropos of nothing, I’ve been to Athens!  Spent roughly 24 hours there as part of a trip to attend a wedding.  I don’t want to say that staying at the Athens Holiday Inn was quite like one of Timon’s lavish parties, but it wasn’t not not like that either.  One weird design flaw; I walk into my room and the lights go on automatically, but then they also go off automatically a couple of minutes later.  I flick the light switches on the wall and on the lamps, but nothing.  I call down to the front desk, and they tell me that to activate the lights, I have to put my room card into a little slot next to the front door.  Supposedly the logic here is that this will save on energy if guests keep leaving lights on when they’re out of the room?  Clearly, Athenians are so spooked by Timon’s downfall that years later, they’re still trying to be frugal.

OVERALL RATING: B-

RANKING THE PLAYS THUS FAR

19. Pericles
18. The Taming Of The Shrew
17. Antony & Cleopatra
16. Troilus & Cressida
15. Love’s Labour’s Lost
14. As You Like It
13. Titus Andronicus
12. Much Ado About Nothing
11. Timon Of Athens
10. Coriolanus
9. The Two Gentlemen Of Verona
8. The Comedy Of Errors
7. The Winter's Tale
6. A Midsummer Night's Dream
5. Julius Caesar
4. Macbeth
3. Cymbeline
2. Twelfth Night
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 freakin’ 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!"

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Galifianakis vs. Clinton

Hmm, I thought I posted this a month ago when it originally aired.  Oh well, it's not like anything big has happened in the election since then.

It's bizarre that Hillary Clinton sitting down for a 'Between Two Ferns' doesn't even crack the top 100 weirdest things to happen during this election.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

NHL/NBA Predictions

Last year, an iconic Canadian franchise (the Maple Leafs) traded an oustanding player (Phil Kessel) for nebulous chemistry reasons (i.e. management didn't like the player).  The player was dealt to an American team (the Penguins) that has enjoyed much more recent success than the iconic Canadian team, perhaps because the American team isn't run by incompetents.  Anyway, the player fit right in with his new team because it actually appreciated him, and went on to win a Stanley Cup, shoving it directly in the face of his old team and the team's water-carriers in the media.

This year, an iconic Canadian franchise (the Canadiens) traded an oustanding player (P.K. Subban) for nebulous chemistry reasons (i.e. management didn't like the player).  The player was dealt to an American team (the Predators) that has enjoyed much more recent success than the iconic Canadian team, perhaps because the American team isn't run by incompetents.

So, my prediction for the coming season is that Nashville will win the Stanley Cup, Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien will both be unemployed by April at the latest, and the Oilers will continue to be terrible.  That last one is a gimme, admittedly.  Should I predict an Eastern Conference finalist?  I guess so, eh?  Tampa Bay!  That's right, Tampa Bay vs. Nashville in the Stanley Cup finals, in a sure ratings-grabber.

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

I'll throw in my NBA season prediction as well, since Golden State vs. Cleveland is as obvious a final as we've ever seen in sports history.  Minus an injury to LeBron, nothing is stopping Warriors/Cavaliers for the third straight year.  This time I'll take the Warriors to win since with Durant in the fold, that team is now officially absurd.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: I'm at an Eminem concert with my mother (!) at the Palace of Auburn Hills.  It's a theatre-in-the-round type of stage, with Em in the middle of the arena and the first several rows around the stage are, in fact, long dinner tables like it's a banquet.  The people seated at said tables are formally dressed and are being served proper meals by a wait staff.  Behind these tables is regular arena seating, where Mom and I are sitting.

After the opening song, the in-arena camera picks me (and a couple of others) out of the crowd and we're chosen for the "Mic Down" later in the concert.  As the guy in front of me explains, this is a bit during Eminem's concerts when he brings a few random people on stage and then tears them apart via a clever rap, essentially like a roast.  I shrug and say sure.  My mother couldn't be more amused by this scenario.  Sadly, I woke up before the whole thing played out.

ANALYSIS
: Yeah, this was a weird one.  Let's just get it out of the way right now, I'm not an Eminem fan.  Enjoy a few of his big hits but that's it --- this is probably why, in the dream, I didn't recognize any of his songs.  It was all just a garbled blur of hip-hop whenever he was actually performing. 

As such, I have no idea what an Eminem concert is like, which is why I'm pretty sure the 'Mic Down' doesn't actually exist.  It seems like something that could exist, however, and frankly, I'm sure countless fans would love to be good-naturedly ripped by Eminem in front of thousands of people.  I'm one of those odd people who thinks it would be a lot of fun to be subjected to a roast.  It couldn't possibly go any worse than the Chevy Chase roast, right?  Right?  And really, what's the worst that Eminem could say about me?  I'd just grin and make some snide remark about Lipton's Brisk Iced Tea commercials.  Of course, the obvious psychological point is that in my dream, I'm being set up to be humiliated, and as much as I say I would've been cool with it, I woke up before the humiliation actually occurred.  This definitely raises some questions about my self-confidence that should be addressed in HEY LOOK OVER THERE IT'S A NEW PARAGRAPH 

I've also never been to the Palace, but I've certainly seen enough Pistons games on TV to know that the place isn't all classed up long tables and a chandelier.  It's just your regular arena.  Maybe this was a manifestation of my subconscious desire to see more gimmick-themed sports stadiums.  For instance, if you're going to call it "the Palace," why NOT go the whole nine yards and give the entire building a regal gimmick?  The Sacramento Kings are in the process (sorta, kinda) of building a new arena so they're a perfect candidate to design that would essentially be an ongoing production of Medieval Times, except with basketball games in lieu of jousting.  This would be amazing.  The fans would all be encouraged to wear their Sunday best to games, female fans could be given fake pearls to shake in outrage at opposing players, everyone gets monocles to drop in outrage, etc.  The Kings players would literally be led onto the court on horseback like the Knights of the round table returning to Camelot --- tell me your average NBA player wouldn't love having his ego pampered like this.    

And now, finally, we ask the big question, why in the world am I there with my mom?  If I'm an unlikely candidate to be at an Eminem concert, my mother is quite possibly THE unlikeliest candidate to be at said show.  She's easily in the bottom five worldwide, right there with my dad, the Pope, Oswaldo Perez of Lima, Peru (he knows why) and, of course, Stan, who would've been there were it not for the fact that he's shuffled off this mortal coil.  Ergo, the two of us there together seems like some kind of weird practical joke…and frankly, it could've been.  My brother is a huge Eminem fan and, since we do nothing but bicker with each other, I could definitely see a scenario where I win Eminem tickets in some contest and then, spitefully, not only go to the show myself but invite our own mother rather than just take my brother or give him the tickets outright.  If this sounds immature, well, it is.  "Mark, aren't you and your brother both in your mid-30's?"  Yes, yes we are. 

Why my mother would go along with this idea is still beyond me, so I'm at a loss to explain her presence in the dream.  I did take her to an Elton John show for her birthday a few years ago, and there's certainly a much-publicized connection between Eminem and Sir Elton.  Also, my name is Mark and her name is Margaret, so between us, we're literally an M & M.  Hmm, could it be that I'm dreaming of Eminem's criticism of me as a projection of what "M& M" thinks, namely my mother's criticisms and my own self-doubts?  Man, this is another fascinating subject that could really reveal a lot of HEY LOOK, IT'S THE END OF THE POST.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Love Potion #9

God only knows what was in the first eight, but we can all agree that #9 still sucks. It generates such a frenzy of Pepe Le Pew-esque lust that the guy can't even tell if it's day or night, and he falls in love with everyone he sees. Pretty ass-backwards formula for a love portion. He starts kissin' everything in sight, including the police officer assigned to the downtown Los Angeles beat who is naturally trying to stop him from these blatant acts of sexual assault. 

The guy is in such a blind tornado of lust and he actually tries to kiss the cop as well, which naturally leads to a scuffle, during which the cop breaks the bottle. This destroys any alibi or explanation this schmuck might've had, and guaranteeing that he'll be branded as a sex offender for life and rightly thrown in jail.    

It's his own fault. The whole idea of a love potion is criminal sexual coercion anyway. If this guy is buying a so-called magic chemical to make it easier for to score, that just sounds to me like he's buying roofies. No wonder this creep is such a self-confessed flop with chicks. He's probably such a flop because he refers to them as "chicks" and not women. Cut out the insulting slang, jerk. That kind of lingo might've flown in 1956 when you last got laid, but it's 2016 now. You know what another insulting term is? "Gypsy." So in short, this guy is a sexual predator AND a bigot.

Love Potion #7, however, just makes you really like the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cheering for an NBA champ is way better than being turned into a pervert.