Thursday, July 27, 2017

Radiohead, "I Promise"

I guess if I posted 'Man Of War' a while back, I should also note this other unreleased Radiohead song from the OK Computer sessions.  (The third one, 'Lift,' has been played live before and is a somewhat well-known B-side, so it's not as special.)  I feel like this track was in competition with No Surprises and Let Down for the vaguely-creepy-sounding-version-of-a-pop-song spot on the record, and since I'm kind of sick of No Surprises by this point, maybe Radiohead made the wrong choice.

Also, in regards to the video...is this the Radio Head?!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Worst Date

Jenny Slate recently recounted her worst date experience ever on a podcast with Sam Fragoso, who provided a transcript to Nylon.  It’s a pretty remarkable story, one so cringe-worthy that even the writers for The Office would find it over the top.  (Well, the writers from the Mike Schur era, at least.  After that all bets are off.  Good lord, “Scott’s Tots” is still just the worst.)

Anyway, reading this article inevitably puts one in mind of their own worst first date, and mine is pretty easy.  Now, to be technical, should we be calling these (both Slate’s story and my own) “first” dates when they’re actually the only dates we had with these people?  “First” implies at least one more, right?  “Worst” date, no question, but “first” is an improper usage.  Then again, it’s not like I get many second dates, so boo to me.

Okay, so my worst date came via an online dating site.  Let’s call the woman in question Sandra, for the sake of anonymity.  Sandra’s profile was well-written (big plus for me) with actual proper spelling and grammar (BIG plus), and we seemed to share a lot of common interests and a common sense of humour.  Plus, she actually responded to my initial message, proving that even a broken clock like me is right twice a day!

We set up a dinner date at a local restaurant, and we mutually arrived five minutes early.  Over-punctuality, nice!  All seems well until her phone rings as soon as we sit down, and she apologizes about “needing” to take the call.  I say no problem, thinking what harm could it be.

Anyway, this call proceeds to go on for at least FIFTEEN MINUTES.  I kid you not.  It seemed like kind of a heated discussion so I tried not to listen in, and thus the wallpaper next to our table got a good stare for the next little while.  (A quarter of an hour, to be specific!) 

Sandra finally ends the call and apologizes profusely, saying it was her mother on the other end.  Without wanting to be nosy but, feeling that the sheer length and clearly heated tone of the call demanded some acknowledgement, I asked what was wrong, or maybe even something as innocuous as “nothing serious, I hope.”  This led to another solid 15 minutes of her describing the issue at length.  As I recall, it involved her mother getting re-married, she and her sister were both co-maids of honour, and either Sandra supported the marriage and her sister didn’t, or it was the other way around.  You’d think I would remember a notable detail like that except I think by this time, the blood was pouring out of my ears. 

Now, we did manage to order in between the call and her extended rant, so at least I wasn’t sitting there starving.  But almost the moment she concluded her explanation about the call, the wedding situation and essentially a detailed history of her family, Sandra’s phone rang once again.  This time it was the sister calling, and of course, she just had to answer.  I once again say no problem, though by this point, I’d mentally checked out on this date about five times over.  This was another marathon call, even longer than the first.  Must’ve been easily 20 minutes, maybe even closer to thirty.  Sandra left the table at one point so as to make less noise (or perhaps to hear more clearly) in the crowded restaurant, and I could see her outside on the patio area, gesticulating away.  Apparently she’s the type that makes big sweeping arm gestures when talking, which I now discovered once she was free of the confines of this fine eating establishment.

On the plus side, the food was good. 

Once that call finally wrapped up, Sandra came back in, apologized again, and said we should probably call it a night as she had more wedding stuff to get settled that evening.  It’s worth adding that she seemed legitimately chastened about all this phone business and she was aware that the evening had been a bust, so it was pretty unfortunate.  She promised to message me on the dating site again once things were “less crazy” in her life.  I was lukewarm about ever getting that message anyway, though as it turns out, I never heard from Sandra again. 

“Mark, is it possible she made this whole scenario up, in order to get out of the date?”

First of all, gee thanks.  Am I that repulsive at first sight?  I wore a 75% wrinkle-free shirt and everything!  To address the question, no, this would take some pretty elaborate performance skills to carry on two elongated phone conversations, not to mention her whole story connecting the two in between the calls.  Again, this was easily over an hour of talking.  If you’re going to make up an excuse to get out of a date, you wouldn’t spend that much time backing up your story. 

So that was it, my worst date.  On my next date (which actually led to a relationship of over a year), my first question to her was “you don’t have a sister named Sandra, do you?”

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ranking The MCU's Villains

The most common criticism of Marvel’s films is their lack of grim, colourless anti-heroes wordlessly killing their enemies while burdened with unimaginable angst…oh wait, hang on DC fans, nobody knocks Marvel for that.  Basically the only issue with the Marvel films is their lack of truly memorable villains, which may be part in parcel of Marvel’s plan to actually make their heroes the draw.  Still, given that all of “Phase Three” and essentially this entire decade is building towards every hero in a showdown with one ultimate villain, Marvel’s spotty track record creates some question as to what we’re going to get with Thanos.  Will he be awesome and worth the “every Avenger needs to be on hand” hype?  Or will he just be a Macguffin of a villain?

While some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s foes have been pretty lacklustre, I feel like several have more than cut the mustard, hence this list to clarify things.  As a point of reference, this list comprises every “big bad” villain (or the biggest villains in cases of multiple foes) from each of the MCU films and each of its major TV series.  I could nitpick and add minor villains like henchmen or Garry Shandling’s Hydra-friendly senator, though for now we’ll just stick to the big headline enemies.  Some notes on my process…

* I’ve yet to watch the Iron Fist series, and I never saw the Edward Norton “Incredible Hulk” movie.  I don’t feel like I’m really missing out on either.
* Thanos doesn’t count since we haven’t really seen him in action yet.
* I’ll issue a blanker SPOILER ALERT for the list since obviously some of these villains don’t reveal themselves as villains until partway through the movies.  You shouldn’t be reading a list like this without at least a half-dozen Marvel films under your belt, duh!
* I guess this goes towards the SPOILER ALERT, but…I’m not counting Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin?  Should I?  I’m actually confused about that particular situation.
* Furthermore, some of these characters end up being heroes either later in the movie/TV season or in a later movie/TV season.  I’m kind of nitpicky about which ones I deem to be actual villains.  For instance, the Punisher is in opposition to Daredevil for much of that season, though I’m hard-pressed to really consider him a “villain.”

33. Ultron (James Spader), Avengers: Age Of Ultron
32. Anton Ivanov (Zach McGowan), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
31. Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace), Guardians Of The Galaxy
30. Johann Fennhoff (Ralph Brown), Agent Carter
29. Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
28. Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey), Luke Cage
27. Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), Thor: The Dark World
26. Eli Morrow (Jose Zuniga), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
25. Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), Iron Man 2
24. Nebula (Karen Gillan), Guardians Of The Galaxy
23. Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll), Ant-Man
22. John Garrett (Bill Paxton), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
21. Raina (Ruth Negga), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
20. Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
19. Aldrich Killian/Extremis/“The Mandarin” (Guy Pearce), Iron Man 3
18. Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), Doctor Strange
17. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), Iron Man 2
16. The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), Captain America: The First Avenger
15. Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali), Luke Cage
14. Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), Iron Man
13. Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), Luke Cage
12. Whitney Frost/Madame Masque (Wynn Everett), Agent Carter
11. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Captain America: The Winter Soldier
10. Cal Johnson (Kyle MacLachlan), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
9. Ego The Living Planet (Kurt Russell), Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2
8. Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), Captain America: The Winter Soldier
7. The Vulture (Michael Keaton), Spider-Man: Homecoming
6. Grant Ward/Hive (Brett Dalton), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
5. Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), Captain America: Civil War
4. Aida (Mallory Jansen), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
3. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor/The Avengers/Thor 2
2. Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), Daredevil
1. Kilgrave/Purple Man (David Tennant), Jessica Jones

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hooray For Friendliness

So I'm on the way home from work a few weeks ago and realize that I don't have any coins for the streetcar.  I pop into the nearest gas station to get some change, though the counter guy says he has no quarter, loonies OR twonies. This seemed like a blatant lie --- what kind of two-bit operation is this?  Actually, it doesn't even have two bits, so it's not even worthy of that low status.  Between a lack of coins and the ever-shifting rules about the bathroom key, you can never trust a gas station attendant, except for maybe that delightful Brent Butt.

Anyway, thwarted, I turned to the next person in line, a young woman in a University of Kentucky hat. (Not the most common piece of headgear in Toronto.)  She is able to make change for my fiver, except she's a quarter short.  Since I'm in a hurry, I tell her no problem and head out.

Fast-forward to a few minutes later, when I'm walking like a regular That Happy Cat towards the nearest streetcar stop.  I'm minding my own business when an SUV honks its horn and pulls up alongside me.  Instinctively, I put my hand over my pocket and reach for my mace.  Not the spray, but rather a giant iron spiked ball on a pole (it's a pain to hide under a jacket, let me tell you).  As I'm prepared to lay a medieval smackdown on this possible drive-by, who should it be behind the wheel but Kentucky Hat Girl.  She pulled over specifically to give me the final quarter.  I thanked her profusely and she drove away into the sunset, like a true hero.

This is just good samaritanism at its finest.   I was perfectly set to let that extra quarter go as a tip for providing me with change, but that didn't stop Kentucky Hat Girl.  Thumbs up to that stranger for the help, since my broke self needs every penny I can get.  Thumbs down, now that I realize it, to that gas station attendant -- he must've had a quarter after all since Kentucky Hat Girl got her change from the same place.  What the hell?!  He must go to Louisville.  I blame Rick Pitino.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Radiohead, "Man Of War"

Could've and should've been on OK Computer, but what song do you possibly remove from that masterpiece?

(Psst, the answer is 'Let Down,' an under-the-radar lousy song.) 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Count Update

Back on June 20, I blogged about the strange and, frankly, concerning abandonment of the Count's Twitter feed, which hadn't updated since hitting the "one thousand three hundred twenty-nine!" mark on May 22.

BUT NOW, LIKE A TRUE VAMPIRE, THE COUNT HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE

On July 6, when the rest of us were busy celebrating Frida Kahlo's birthday, the Count's, uh, account tweeted....




I mean, what a blockbuster.  The Count's countdown (or really, a countup, which should totally be a real word) has faithfully continued every day since, with sometimes even two tweets per day. 

We can all rest easy, since it appears as though the Count is indeed still with us and wasn't staked by Buffy The Twitter Slayer.  But why the dormant 44 days?  My first thought was that it referred to Sesame Street's history, though apparently the show has been on the air for 47 seasons, not merely 44.  My next thought was that it was a reference to ruthenium's atomic number of 44, and then I stopped guessing since that was clearly it.  Vampires love ruthenium!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Hot! Live! Music!

Radiohead, "Reckoner"
This actually might be my favourite song of theirs, despite my ranking it only third on my list of the best Radiohead songs ever.  What do I know, I’m an idiot.

Moral Panic, "I Don’t Want To Know You No More"
This is kind of a rarity for H!L!M! since I actually know someone in this band.  The violinist is an old friend of mine from university.  It comes as news to me that she plays violin, so we're perhaps not *that* close but...uh, we're Facebook friends?  And we once attended a Sarah Harmer concert together, so that's an unbreakable bond!  Anyway, this is a nice song, kind of vaguely Blue Rodeo with some traces of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, which is a little ironic since "wish you were here" and "I don't want to know you no more" are pretty separate sentiments.


U2, "Bad"

I’m still on a U2 concert high, so here’s one of their million great live performances of Bad.  This one with a random Candle In The Wind snippet!  I enjoy how Bono keeps jerking around the fans during the sing-along portion…they all really wanted to break into the “I’m wiiiiiiiiiiide awake” part but Bono just wouldn’t allow it!


Postmodern Jukebox and Thia Megia, "Feel Good Inc."

In honour of a friend who recently saw Gorillaz in concert and said they put on a great show, here’s…uh, not Gorillaz.  If PMJ really wanted to take this cover to the next level, they would’ve made a video of 1940’s Disney animation-style cartoon characters singing the song.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Simpsons Did It

"Congratulations, Mr. Simpson!  This invention of yours has made us all rich, especially you.  It's simple yet ingenious, and it fits right in the palm of your hand.  Every person in America now owns one of these, and in many cases, three or four!"

Wait, did the Simpsons see the fidget spinner coming?!  This is taking the "Simpsons predictions" things to an even eerier level...

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Canada's Birthday

Happy Canada Day!  A holiday!  Fireworks!  A giant rubber duck in Toronto's harbourfront for some reason!

 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Liam vs. Liam

Scenario: Liam Neeson's character from The Grey vs. Neeson's character in Taken.

Taken/Liam believes that Grey/Liam has kidnapped his daughter, Grey/Liam is told that he will survive if he kills Taken/Liam. The battle takes place in the forest at 0 degrees Celsius (37 Fahrenheit, for my American readers). Neither man is armed, but they are allowed to use whatever they can find as a weapon, be it a rock, stick, snowball, etc. Who wins?

Winner faces the winner of the other semi-final, between Aslan and Qui-Gon Jinn. I probably should've made the brackets of the Liam Neeson Character Tournament a bit more even.  I mean, Rob Roy vs. The Guy From Love Actually seems pretty one-sided.

Is this post a glorified excuse to link to Neeson's appearance on Life's Too Short once again?  Yes.  Yes it is.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

National Sunglasses Day

Apparently today is #NationalSunglassesDay, which gives me an excuse for the laziest of all blogger activites, re-posting old material!  Here are two classics (your mileage may vary) from 2014....

***********

March 2014

If I ever got to meet a genie, all-knowing entity or some kind of deity, I obviously would stick to mostly deep questions (meaning of life, is there extraterrestrial life, etc.) and I wouldn't go all "Homer meets the Kwik-E-Mart president."  That said, if I got the opportunity for more than, say, a half-dozen questions, I'm pretty sure the last one on the list would be asking this all-knowing being whatever the hell happened to my giant fly sunglasses.

If you knew me between the years 1998-2007(ish), you probably saw me wearing these oversized jet-black sunglasses with those thick lens at least once.  If you didn't know me then, imagine the kind of glasses that either a very old woman or a Kardashian might wear.  (The picture at the top of the post is a pretty close visual approximation.)

Now, I cited old women and Kardashians, but my real inspiration for these shades was Bono.  My U2 fandom really took hold in 1997 and, upon becoming obsessed with the band, I took to wearing these sunglasses as a tribute to Bono's "Fly" character that he adopted for the ZooTV tour and really, for basically all of 1991-93.  I'm not going to lie, he probably pulled them off better than a prematurely-balding 17-year-old did, but that's just a matter of taste and opinion.

Now admittedly, I went a little overboard with these things in 1998-99.  I may or may not have (so, did) worn these things all the time at school, even during most classes.  This was when I learned a valuable lesson --- if you're a good student, high school teachers will get you get away with basically anything.  Even the hard-ass teachers who cracked down on anyone else for even wearing a hat in class could've seen me walk into the room with a live bird on my head and just gone, "meh, Mark hands in his stuff on time, whatever."  I wore these shades so often that, when running for student council that year, I used two giant bug-eye lenses as my campaign logo.  In a possibly-related story, I badly lost that election, hearing through the grapevine that I finished fourth out of four candidates.  On the one hand, my three opponents were arguably the three most popular kids in school.  On the other, "I wear sunglasses all the time!" isn't exactly a great campaign platform, so the electorate spoke wisely.

Anyway, I greatly dialed back the sunglass-wearing and from then on, I just wore these shades when (y'know) it was sunny out, like a normal person.  I got years of use out of those glasses and that's when the mystery deepens.

Between August-October 2007, I took a selfie wearing those shades and a toque* on my laptop camera.  I'm able to pinpoint those specific dates since the picture was taken at the place I was subletting in Toronto at the time.  After that timeframe, however, I have no idea what happened to my beloved fly shades.

* = the toque, I should add, was specifically bought because it resembles the tight-knit caps worn by the Edge.  I still have that toque to this day.  What's with me dressing like the members of U2?  

It's very weird since, as noted, I still wore those things all the time, though I'd also branched out and had about three other pairs of (normal, non-enormous lensed) sunglasses that I kept in a rotation.  So it's possible that my fly shades just got lost in the shuffle of packing my stuff to head back to London in November 2007, or I still had them during the winter of 2007-08 and I lost them then, or perhaps one of my friends simply got sick to death of those stupid-looking glasses and stole them in a fit of pique.  OR, as is more likely, one of my fashionista friends stole them out of jealousy since they were just beyond stylish.  It's annoying to not have a specific date locked down as to when I last had the damn things, since it really widens my search parameters.  They could be in any part of southern Ontario that borders the 403, really.

In the years since, I've looked for other shades that can fill the giant, bug-lensed hole in my heart but it's no use.  I haven't found any that are just right.  Some have lenses that are too thin, or too properly circular as opposed to bugged out.  Some have earpieces that are also too thin.  The biggest problem, I've found, is that most earpieces have some kind of goofy design on them whereas I'm looking for just jet-black.  Now, I'm just dozens of you will read this post and surprise me with fly-style glasses for my next birthday but don't bother.  I'm very picky about the style I want.  I'll probably just look at your gift and throw it on the ground in a huff, a la Veruca Salt, since it's just not specifically what I want.

Yes, I realize the irony of wearing sunglasses in the first place to emulate Bono and now I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

If you have any information as to the whereabouts of my beloved sunglasses, call my 24-hour hotline at 555-MARKFLYSHADES.  I realize that this is longer than the usual amount of digits in a phone number, but I made a special deal with the phone company.  The president of Bell once lost a novelty t-shirt with a picture of a cartoon aardvark saying "Aardvark Always Pays Off!" and its loss haunts him to this very day, so my situation was met with a lot of sympathy within the telephone industry.

********

July, 2014


It never hurts to talk about one's problem.  It truly could've been an act of karma that, just a few months after I break down and write about my quixotic search for a pair of fly-esque sunglasses to match a pair I lost years ago, that my search finally came to an end.

The place: Canadian Tire.  Just mentioning the name fills me with a weird sense of nostalgic national pride, plus my nose is suddenly filled with the smell of rubber.  I went into my local CT in order to check out their watch inventory (my old watch met its end when I accidentally dropped it down a flight of stairs).  I'll take a small sidebar here to note that I'm in that weird middle ground between "not wanting to spend any significant money on a watch since they're strictly a utilitarian piece of equipment" and "having a watch whatsoever, since you can always check the time on your phone."  Ergo, my interest in Canadian Tire's wide array of watches for $20 or less. 

Nothing caught my eye on this day, however, not to mention the fact that I was a bit cramped for time during my visit and (had I bought a watch) didn't have time for an obligatory trip to the jewelry store to get the battery installed.  What I did have time for, however, was the obligatory browse of the sunglass rack on the fleeting, off-chance that….

…OH MY GOOD LORD.  THEY EXIST.  The glasses had frames that weren't 'quite' as outlandishly large as I'd hoped, and the inside of the lens were actually a shade of metallic pink.  Still…large lenses, black tinted, and black plastic ear wraps that were just plain black without any goofy design on them.  This was the 95% solution, and frankly, who isn't satisfied with 95 percent?  The makers of Ivory soap?  Get over yourselves, people.  I'll take a ninety-five any day of the week.

So now I'm strutting around town with my fly sunglasses on, looking like the single coolest human being walking the face of the earth.  You've probably seen me around town --- my presence will be alerted by a slight breeze, and you'll turn your head and literally be struck backwards by the tornado of style that's coming your way.  "Holy smoke, does he even HAVE eyes?  I can't see them!  Whoaaa!", you'll excitedly yelp, high-fiving either your buddies or maybe some passersby if you happen to be a friendless degenerate.  Then you'll go home and write a post about seeing me on your blog, give it a tag called 'Brushes With Greatness,' hesitate for a moment since that tag sounds vaguely douchey, then shrug and do it anyways since my sunglasses were just that outstanding. 

The moral of the story is to never ever give up hope, kids.  You never know when you'll find something wonderful to fill a seemingly un-fillable hole in your life.  I'd like to think that my old glasses, wherever they may be, are happy that I've moved on with a new eyemate.  My future is literally so bright, I have to wear these shades.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

U2's U-Shaped Concert

I was only five years old when The Joshua Tree was released, and still roughly a decade away from U2 fandom.  So, it was fun to see the band revisit their most popular album 30 years after its release by doing two things the band never does — tour an old album rather than a new release, and play an entire album from start to finish.  Several bands have been doing the ‘play the entire record’ gimmick in recent years, and I’ve actually seen this in person myself, when Pearl Jam made the odd decision to play Binaural front-to-back when I saw them last year.  It’s actually quite rare that U2 even plays an entire album at ANY point in their live history.  Before this tour, Boy was the only U2 album that had ever had all of its tracks played in full during a live show.

So the stage was set last night in Toronto.  The players!

* Your humble narrator, seeing his astonishing eighth U2 concert!

* My buddy Trev, seeing his fifth U2 concert (all with me), despite the fact that he isn’t really that huge a fan of the band!  What a true concert compadre!  He keeps going despite the fact that he has never heard All I Want Is You, his favourite U2 song, played during any of these shows.  Wait, maybe that’s WHY he keeps going.  Once they finally play it when he’s in attendance, he’ll just leave the building immediately.

* My buddy Eric, seeing his second U2 concert!  Eric joined Trev and I for a Vertigo Tour show in 2005 and really enjoyed it despite a near-total lack of knowledge about the band and their music.  (Sample question after the show: “I liked that Vertigo song, is that one of their hits?”)  Eric was supposed to join us again in 2009 but broke his leg playing rec league baseball two weeks before the concert, and then in 2015, someone (uh, named Clark, or Park or something) was only able to get single tickets to two Innocence & Experience shows.  So Eric was making his triumphant return to seeing U2 in concert, 12 years later, and this time actually knew five or six of the numbers on the setlist.  Progress!

* Joanne, seeing her second U2 concert!  The little sister I never had, to the point where I was actually a bridesmaid (you read that right) at her wedding.  This was also the first time Jo and I had seen a U2 show together, as *someone* (that same Clark/Park guy) got her tickets to a concert in 2009 but she couldn’t attend due to a last-minute pHd crunch.  Boo to higher learning!

* Greg, seeing his very first U2 concert!  Greg is like a brother, except for the fact that he’s married to Joanne, so having a brother and sister marry each other is pretty weird.  Greg rated his first U2 experience as “really good,” so yet another satisfied customer.

* Marianne, seeing her third U2 concert!  Marianne is Joanne’s actual sister, which makes her my step-little sister?  Though Marianne is older than me, so step-bigger sister?  This analogy is falling apart.  Anyway, during the concert, I learned that the combination of Joanne and Marianne screaming at the same time creates a noise so piercing that I honestly thought there was a feedback issue in the stadium’s sound system.  Greg was next to them and now may be deaf in his left ear.

We took in the show from the upper levels of Rogers Centre on a hot and muggy day in Toronto, and I can’t tell you how relieved we were when the roof began to open up about 40 minutes before showtime.  Rain earlier in the day gave way to clear skies at night, so obviously someone in stadium services or with the band themselves made the correct call to let the fans enjoy U2 on a lovely summer’s evening.

The stage was pretty bare-bones, reflecting their old 1987 stage, just souped-up for modern times by having the big backdrop be a video screen rather than….well, just a backdrop.  There was a catwalk in the shape of a Joshua tree that stretched out into the crowd, and U2 played their first four songs of the night on that B-stage before moving back onto the main stage to kick off the full-album segment.  There was also a staple Joshua Tree image on the screen that, weirdly, wasn’t sized properly.  The top third was above the actual screen, so either the tree should’ve been properly done to scale or the screen should’ve just been larger.  Maybe it was a metaphor for the show, as you’ll see later.

Here’s the full setlist…

*Sunday Bloody Sunday….an unconventional opener choice but a strong one.  Larry Mullen came out on stage by himself to applause and started playing the song’s legendary drum intro, followed by Edge strolling out playing the guitar riff, then Bono entering with the opening vocal, and then Adam Clayton trailing behind adding in the bass.  Great gimmick to kick off a show! 
*New Year’s Day
*Bad….with a large portion of “Suzanne,” as a tribute to Leonard Cohen
*Pride
*Where The Streets Have No Name
*I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
*With Or Without You
*Bullet The Blue Sky
*Running To Stand Still
*Red Hill Mining Town
….this was the Joshua Tree track that U2 had never played live even once prior to this tour.  Ironically, the band originally had it earmarked as their first single from the album (!) except Bono’s voice couldn’t take singing it on a nightly basis.  This song faded into obscurity while WOWY ended up as one of U2’s most iconic hits.  Wacky!
*In God’s Country
*Trip Through Your Wires
*One Tree Hill
*Exit
….one of the real highlights of the concert, just an absolute fireball of an energetic song.  Bono even ditched the glasses and donned his old Joshua Tree hat, to really recapture the 1987 vibe.
*Mothers Of The Disappeared
(((encore break)))
*Miss Sarajevo
*Beautiful Day
….rainbow imagery on the screen and slightly reworked with a larger theme of inclusiveness in a nod to both Canada as a nation of acceptance and for Toronto’s Pride weekend
*Elevation
*Vertigo
*Ultraviolet
….rebranded for this tour as an ode to influential women throughout history, and also Lena Dunham for some reason.
*One
*I Will Follow
 

U2 had been playing a new track (The Little Things That Give You Away) at some of the earlier shows on this tour as, interestingly, the closing number.  Sort of a coming attraction for the band’s “upcoming” album.  I use the quote marks since who the hell knows when U2 will actually release this, given their rep for delaying and/or shelving records entirely, BUT the new Songs Of Experience disc is allegedly coming in December.

Rather than the coming attraction of the new song, U2 has seemingly decided to make this a straight greatest-hits set.  It is probably a wise decision given the one flaw in this whole Joshua Tree tribute idea — nobody really knows the back half of the album.

Now, TJT is one of the best albums of all time, hands-down.  As a record, the tracklist flows very well.  In a live setting, however, there’s a problem since the album is so enormously front-loaded.  I mean, when you have arguably U2’s three biggest as the record’s first three tracks, then the next two best-known Joshua Tree songs fourth and fifth in the order, it leaves a pretty long stretch of lesser-known material right in the middle of the show.

The result was something I’d never seen before at a U2 concert: an extended dead period.  The crowd was standing and rabid for the first seven songs, all classics.  We stayed jazzed through BTBS, since how could you not.  Then, during Running To Stand Still, you could actually see the waves of people gradually starting to sit down around the stadium and by RHMT it was nothing but butts in seats.  That continued all the way through Miss Sarajevo* until Beautiful Day kicked in, and then you could see the masses getting back to their feet and staying there through the hit-strewn encore of high-energy songs.

* = I’d question the placement of another lesser-known song right after the Joshua Tree back half, though I’m not sure where else you can fit it into the setlist.  It certainly can’t be removed entirely, since as the song’s video footage indicated, U2 is making a point of highlighting the Syrian refugee crisis with this performance.

Don’t get me wrong, the JT back half is a strong bunch of songs and they were performed well, with Exit being a particular highlight.  It’s just that U2 left themselves little room for flexibility by committing themselves to play the entire record in order, when in a perfect world, they’d mix and match things to create a better flow for the evening.  When touring a new album, naturally the band would mix the new stuff in amongst the older stuff, not just play something like 5-6 new songs all in a row.  (The one exception was when they kicked off the old Zoo TV tour with something like eight Achtung Baby songs, but those songs all ruled, so it’s a push.) 

Since the tour is almost half over, it’s probably too late to fix this issue.  The only solution I can see would be to play all 11 Joshua Tree songs, but not in the actual order.  Start with WTSHNN, then move into the faster-paced numbers and Still Haven’t Found, then go into the “heart of darkness” part of the set that U2 always likes in their concerts by putting Bullet and Exit back-to-back, following that up with RTSS or One Tree Hill for a bit of hope, then WOWY, then Mothers to end the album proper.  This creates a bit more natural flow and it spaces the big hits throughout the 11 tracks, rather than having them all kick off the set.

With the staid middle portion of the show in mind, it was a rare U2 show that wasn’t a total hit for me.  As such, I’d have to rank it no better than second-last of the eight concerts I’d seen.  (Last place is my first-ever U2 concert, a Toronto show during the Elevation Tour, which was still a great experience but it has paled in comparison to my other times seeing them.)  It was a great idea for a tour that maybe required a bit more planning, like that video screen that didn’t quite fit the entire tree.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Vampire Diar...Tweets

JULY 14 UPDATE: breaking news!

The Count from Sesame Street has an official Twitter account (doesn't everyone) that has a very characteristic gimmick.  Once or twice per day, the account simply counts a different number in sequence.  For example...








This has been going on since the feed's inception, as far as I can tell.  May 22 of this year seemed like a day just like any other...


....except this was the last tweet.  After almost a full month, the feed is still silent.

It begs the question, did something happen to the Count?!  Did he accidentally walk into the sun and get vaporized?  Did his bloodlust suddenly overcome even his love of counting and he, like, murdered Ernie or something?  Was the Count finally revealed as the true cause of Mr. Hooper's death all those years ago, and Sesame Street just leveled the audience with a massive plot twist in its season finale?  I'm not sure I'm prepared for next season's plotline of Big Bird, Snuffy and a Muppet-ized version of Sarah Michelle Gellar out for revenge against Countgelus.

I won't lie, I looked up "1329" on Wikipedia just to see if that was the year Vlad The Impaler died or something, and this was all just some very clever and literate reference from whomever maintains the Twitter feed.  No corresponding historical reference could be found, however.  What was I thinking, "whomever maintains the feed."  It's clearly run by the Count himself!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day

Scene: A few years ago, my parents' house. I stroll into the living room to find my father watching the end of "Taken."

Me: Hey Dad, if I was kidnapped by an Eastern European prostitution ring, would you come and rescue me?

Dad: Sure!  Any excuse to go to Paris!

FIN

On that note, Happy Father's Day, Dad! Other than not flying to Paris to kill dozens of armed thugs, you've always been there for me.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Cruise Ranking

The Ringer, in their infinite wisdom, published a worst-to-best ranking of Tom Cruise’s movies that just seemed really off-base to me.  Some people might argue that since I’ve seen only around half of Cruise’s movies, I’m in no better position to make a ranking.  Some of those same people might argue that I’m not even really a fan of Cruise, so what business do I have in judging his filmography.  Those people can shut up!

LEGITIMATELY BAD MOVIES
24. Vanilla Sky
23. Cocktail
22. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

MEH
21. The Firm
20. Days Of Thunder
19. War Of The Worlds
18. Valkyrie
17. Eyes Wide Shut
16. Austin Powers In Goldmember

PRETTY SOLID AND/OR REWATCHABLE
15. Mission Impossible
14. The Last Samurai
13. Mission Impossible 2 (editor’s note: this movie is admittedly bad but it’s a guilty pleasure, as one of my all-time favourite “watching a bad movie with friends and just ripping it apart” experiences)
12. Jack Reacher
11. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

LEGITIMATELY GOOD MOVIES
10. The Color Of Money
9. Jerry Maguire
8. Tropic Thunder
7. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
6. Rain Man

LEGITIMATELY GREAT MOVIES
5. A Few Good Men
4. Collateral
3. Minority Report
2. Magnolia
1. Edge Of Tomorrow

If the MTV Movie Awards segment featuring Cruise as himself and Ben Stiller as "Tom Crooze" counts, it is definitely in that 'legitimately great' bracket.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trailer On The Orient Express


As a big Agatha Christie fan, I am naturally 100% seeing this film, since it’ll be cool to see a modern version of this classic mystery.  Maybe I’m overreacting to the ‘words on the screen’ aesthetic, but it seems like MOTOE may have a bit of a Sherlock-esque vibe to it.  (Let’s hope it’s more the first season of Sherlock than S4.)  The cast is also appropriately star-studded, if obviously lacking in comparison to the 1974 adaptation — no shame there, as man alive, look at that list of names!  Eleven former Oscar nominees?!  Stand back! 

In fact, this new version isn’t too shabby with six Oscar nominees in the cast.  I admit, I was a little annoyed at the way the credits were presented until I realized they were simply in alphabetical order.  My feeling was that poor Michelle Pfeiffer was being shafted by being lumped in with ‘the others’ while the five bigger names were on the first screen.  I felt Branagh should’ve gone onto the second screen as a sign of good faith, since he was the director of the film anyway and already had extra stroke.

As you can tell, I’m always looking for ways to criticize Kenneth Branagh since he, to put it bluntly, is not a favourite of mine.  For a guy with such a distinguished reputation, I find him to be an incredible ham and an incredibly broad actor.  His only good roles, in my opinion, are the ones that naturally play into that broadness (such as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter, or as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing).  Branagh was also pretty excellent in his adaptation of “Hamlet,” a legitimately great film, though even in that case, he kind of broadened Hamlet out a little bit.

Now, it’s worth noting that Branagh directed Hamlet and Much Ado himself, and his truly bad performances* all came in movies directed by other people.  I’m not sure what this says about Mr. Branagh…is he too nice to turn down instruction from other directors?  Does he get so focused on the filmmaking process when directing that it actually helps his performance by muting his naturally hammy instincts?  Or maybe he’s actually a GOOD actor and I’m just cherry-picking a few bad roles?  Nah, that couldn’t be it.

* 1. his godawful Woody Allen impersonation in Celebrity
2. his half-assed Olivier impression in My Week With Marilyn that somehow earned him an Oscar nomination
3. his terribly broad version of Iago in the Oliver Parker “Othello” adaptation that ruined one of the greatest villains in literary history and must have been an inspiration for Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood
4. his villain in Wild Wild West, to which even Jesse Eisenberg would’ve been like, “hmm, he played that a little over the top”


The irony is, I actually like just about every movie Branagh has directed, so I have pretty high hopes for Orient Express.  I’ll refrain from actually discussing the ending even though I’m pretty sure most learned people know it, though for modern (or just dumber) audiences that never read the novel, I’m interested in seeing what the reaction will be to the somewhat unique nature of the mystery’s solution.

Oh, one more beef about the credits.  They listed ten people but couldn’t find room for Olivia Colman?!  Nonsense.  One blog post-in-the-making is simply a listing of my favourite actors, and I recently realized that Colman is absolutely deserving of a spot on the list.  Comedy, drama, she can do it all.  It’s awesome that this woman who began her career as “token woman in Mitchell & Webb sketches” has risen to such prominence.  Give her her due, Branagh!  (Or whoever made the trailer…again, maybe I’m quick to judge him.)  While we’re at it, find credit space for Lucy Boynton, who is also in this movie and came off as a capital-S Star in Sing Street.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Corn Pops Forever

I'm at the store the other day buying cereal* and I came across a box of Corn Pops that expires in October…on my birthday.

Now, I bought the cereal in question because Corn Pops are delicious, but also because I'm vaguely afraid this cereal could be tied to me in some kind of portrait of Dorian Gray-esque manner.  Like, for every Pop that's eaten, that's one step closer to my end of days.  But now that I'm in possession of the box and can control the ebb and flow (eat and flow?) of the contents, I'm now virtually immortal.

This whole scenario was actually a deleted scene from Highlander.  The director cut the scene since having Chris Lambert hoarding boxes of cereal somewhat detracted from the whole sword fights-and-beheading theme.  Still would've done less damage to the franchise than Highlander 2, however.

* = and other groceries, though my diet is "single guy sad" enough that a cereal-specific trip to Shoppers Drug Mart wouldn't be out of the question

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Name O' The Movie

My friend Dave has a theory that every movie should include a character saying the film's title three times, in increasingly panicked fashion.  For instance, in Magnolia, you'd have a tight closeup of, say, Tom Cruise going

(with dawning comprehension) "Magnolia."
(with growing dread) "Magnolia!"
(with a mighty bellow) "MAGNOLIAAAAAAA!"

Anyway, this video is one-third as good as that idea.

Title Drops from Roman Holiday on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Friendly Neighbourhood

I was walking downtown last weekend when I saw a motorcycle cut off an SUV, leading to the SUV driver opening his window and yelling angrily at the cyclist.  Suddenly, a guy dressed in a full Spider-Man costume rolls down the other lane on a skateboard, then yells "getting pretty road-ragey, buddy!" The SUV driver is left dumbfounded and nearby pedestrians (myself included) are openly laughing out loud.

I prefer to think that was the actual Spider-Man.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Survivor Ratings: Sarah

It’s become a running gag in Survivor that the seasons with casts at last half-comprised of returning players are always won by players with middling results in their previous try.*  Sure enough, we add to that legacy with a blah winner in Sarah Lacina winning a blah season overall, minus the wonderful five added chapters in The Book Of Sandra.  Despite my general boredom with Sarah as a Survivor character, she inarguably played a strong game under unusual circumstances, so let’s break down her victory. 

* = the exception, of course, being Sandra’s awesome win in Heroes vs. Villains.  Ah, Queen Sandra.  I was hoping against hope that she could somehow pull out another victory this year, and the crazy part is, she did extraordinarily well.  She had a giant target on her back as the only two-time winner, she had no luck in tribe shuffles….and yet Sandra managed to make it through FOUR tribal councils before even getting a vote.  That is just scary good.  If she’d been shuffled into even a slightly stronger tribe, she gets to make at least the merge and then we’re guaranteed the instant joy that would’ve been Sandra on a jury.  It isn’t any coincidence as soon as Sandra was eliminated, the season took a sharp downturn into ugliness.

How She Won: In short, she was the cop that “played like a criminal,” which is the kind of TV-friendly tagline that Jeff Probst and company just adore.  I can appreciate that Sarah obviously had some compunctions about coming off as scheming or distrustful on national television when her entire profession is built around trust and honesty, but at the end of the day, it’s Survivor.  It’s a game.  “There’s no villain in Monopoly,” as Jon Penner would say.  It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to make that mental leap, but to Sarah’s credit, it was all systems go once she adopted her “criminal” mentality.

As I’ve written before, luck is a gigantic part of every Survivor win, and this was particularly true in a season loaded (or, really, overloaded) with tribe swaps, hidden idols, hidden advantages and goofy twists to try and justify the “Game Changers” tagline.*  It is some great karmic justice that so many of the producers’ favourite characters — Malcolm, Sandra, Michaela and especially Cirie —- were eliminated by all of these twists, and hopefully this convinces the show to dial it back a few notches.  Any so-called all-star season that ends with the who-cares final three of Sarah, Brad Culpepper and Troyzan would hopefully result in some heads rolling in the production offices.   

* = Have we seen the end of the days when a season is just called Survivor: Location?  Given the Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers subtitle for next year, the answer appears to be yes.

Sarah’s biggest achievement was benefitting from all of these twists.  She didn’t even attend tribal council until the sixth vote, and then she was part of two easy calls in eliminating Sandra and Varner.  She was the one that noticed the secret advantage on the reward challenge platform that Michaela ignored, leading to Sarah getting the vote steal and using it properly to eliminate (ironically) Michaela herself.  She was the one who played Sierra so badly that Sierra gave SARAH the legacy idol instead of Brad, her BFF throughout the game, even though Sarah orchestrated Sierra’s elimination specifically to get that idol. 

The legacy idol allowed Sarah to avoid her only direct brush with elimination, as in the infamous tribal council when Cirie was eliminated, Sarah received three votes and would’ve gone home.  And then that led to Sarah’s one true biggest “lucky” break when things were totally out of her hands, as Brad inexplicably decided that Tai was a bigger threat in a final three than Sarah.  Tai!  The guy who’d already crapped the bed in a final three in S32!  The guy whose game nobody respected since he was such a flip-flopper.  I guess Culpepper’s logic was that Tai was more well-liked than Sarah, but while I don’t think Sarah is getting Xmas cards from too many of the jurors, they still clearly thought she brought more to the table than Tai.  Note to self: if I ever get arrested and brought to trial while visiting the greater Tampa Bay area, DO NOT hire Brad Culpepper as my attorney.

Skill set: As mentioned, Sarah did a good job of adapting to all the twists and using them to her advantage.  I’ll also make particular mention of her final tribal council speech, which goes on the short list of most memorable defenses of their game by any winner.  Sarah instantly defused some bad vibes that might’ve been coming her way by explaining her “play like a criminal” act as similar to going undercover to gain trust.  That was outstanding.  It was, pardon the pun, a Get Out Of Jail Free card for her entire game.  I mean, one doesn’t need a great speech when your opponents are Troyzan and Brad “Lionel Hutz” Culpepper, but still, Sarah perfectly owned her actions.  It was a little Heidik-esque in the sense that Sarah couldn’t help but totally burn some people (Sierra, Debbie) and thus they weren’t going to vote for her regardless, and of course Ozzy would totally vicariously vote for the guy who won five challenges as the winner….but ultimately, Sarah made sure that she burned less people than she sent to the jury with relatively good feelings towards her.  Or, at least, better feelings than were felt towards Troyzan and Brad.

Could She Do It Again?: Ironically, now that Sarah has “played like a criminal,” I feel she’s made herself a much bigger target in a hypothetical return season.  We saw how quickly her pal Tony got himself shellacked this season, by comparison.  It’s hard to say if she’d be able to avoid as many problems in her third time as she did in her third time, as we’ve still never really seen how Sarah directly reacts to a situation not going her way.  (She was blindsided in one-off fashion in S28, remember.)

I’m tempted to put her slightly higher than a mid-tier of winners, though as a viewer, I honestly didn’t find her particularly interesting.  She goes into that batch of winners like Tyson, Mike, Michele, Cochran, Todd, etc. whose victory I can respect but I don’t really want to see them on my TV again.  Am I still bitter about Sandra and Cirie getting eliminated amidst a particularly poorly-edited season of Survivor?  Noooooooooooo   

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mehweather MehGregor

The heavily discussed, ahem, "superfight" between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor seems to appeal to.....

* people who will buy any Mayweather pay-per-view
* people who will buy any McGregor PPV
* boxing fans who want to see their sport "defended" by seeing Mayweather beat McGregor senseless
* MMA fans who want to see their sport "defended" by seeing McGregor be the first person to ever defeat Mayweather, or at least put up a competitive showing (more on this later)
* people who just love any sort of hyped-up spectacle
* Mayweather's people, McGregor's people, the UFC itself and the state of Nevada, all of whom stand to make a fortune by promoting this fight

So all in all, it's a pretty significant subsection of humanity.  Nobody doubts that this fight, if it actually does happen, would be a big PPV draw.  There are millions and millions worth of financial reasons why the fight should and may very well happen.

As for me personally, as you might have guessed, I have zero interest in this matchup.  Less than zero, really.  I'm not a boxing fan and still a pretty notable UFC fan, though my interest in that sport has certainly diminished over the last couple of years.  Ironically, it could be that the UFC's gradual shift into becoming boxing (in terms of promoting 'superfights' and big names ahead of title bouts between legitimate contenders) that is hurting my interest.

McGregor is himself somewhat the poster child for this, though like many, I really enjoy watching him fight.  Say what you will about McGregor, but he has backed up his talk --- he cleanly won the UFC featherweight title, and less than a year later, he cleanly won the lightweight title.  In terms of actually watching McGregor compete, I have no complaints....well, as long as he's facing legitimate ranking-determining challenges and not inexplicable matches with Nate Diaz.

The problem is that McGregor has now, for all intents and purposes, become bigger than the UFC.  The company had always been pretty careful about keeping their champions and biggest stars under the UFC's banner and playing by their rules, when it came to regular defenses of their titles.  Sure, you still got the odd bit of nonsense (a title put on hold for months so the champ and challenger could be coaches on an Ultimate Fighter season, or a somewhat dubious challenger suddenly getting a boost in the UFC's own internal rankings to justify a title shot), but by and large, it was still essentially a meritocracy.  With a few exceptions, the UFC has generally always stuck to the pattern of treating their promotion like a sport, and if a guy won enough fights, he'd eventually get his shot at the title.  It wasn't like boxing, where titles and governing bodies are essentially meaningless behind big names and promotional companies.

McGregor, however, is breaking the rulebook.  He has pursued titles, of course, but as a means to an end.  He had a great interest in becoming a two-division champion, but not in actually defending those belts.  As soon as he won the featherweight title, he immediately set his sights on the 155-pound title and then the Diaz fights --- McGregor has since surrendered the FW belt and left the division entirely.  Now that he has won the lightweight belt, it's an open question as to whether or not he'll actually defend it, or move on up to 170 pounds to either challenge Tyrone Woodley or pursue a superfight with Georges St. Pierre, OR just forego MMA altogether for this boxing match pipe dream with Mayweather.  The UFC has allowed this to happen since McGregor = big money, so the company has essentially let him call his shots.  Now, you see the influence creeping into the other divisions, with the likes of Michael Bisping or Woodley suddenly demanding only big-money superfights instead of mandatory title defenses against worthy challengers. 

If McGregor gets this Mayweather fight, it'll net him an eight-figure payday and quite possibly lead to his retirement altogether from combat sports.  He'll have gotten enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his life, and McGregor has already discussed retirement now that he's a father.  Assuming he invests wisely, McGregor will never have any need to step back into a UFC cage again.

From the UFC's perspective, they'll be gaining the short-term financial bump of this megafight, with the longer-term challenge of McGregor potentially leaving, the chaos he has left to the UFC's competitive model in his wrought, and (oh yeah) the overwhelming chance that McGregor is going to get humiliated in this boxing match.

Let's not mince words here: McGregor has zero chance of actually beating Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match.  Mayweather, despite being a scumbag, is also one of the best boxers in history.  I realize the surface similarities between boxing and MMA have led to the interest in this matchup, but they are such wildly different sports that this fight is an absurd mismatch.  This is like McGregor challenging LeBron James to a one-on-one in basketball, or McGregor hitting the ice to take on Patrick Chan in a figure skating competition.  Nobody would give McGregor a hope in hell in those matchups, nor would they reasonably expect it to be close....yet for some reason, there is a not-insignificant portion of the public that actually thinks McGregor could knock Mayweather out.

Mayweather could end this fight within a round if he wanted to, or (potentially even worse) he could drag things out for 12 full rounds and just punish McGregor the entire time, if Conor could last or if his corner didn't throw in the towel at some point.  There's also the chance Mayweather could drag it out just because he can, leading to another noncompetitive snoozer that would leave PPV buyers feeling ripped off, like several of his other fights.  McGregor may well be willing to take a beating to make a fortune, since while he's a confident man, he isn't a stupid one.  If you're Mayweather, who loves both money and keeping his perfect record intact, why *not* take an easy fight and guaranteed W against a big box office draw?

It could be that this fight, of course, ends up being a lot of posturing and politicking and no actual negotiations.  There is a theory that this whole thing is just McGregor and Mayweather's way of keeping their names in the public eye, or they're both angling for (respectively) a bigger UFC contract or a bigger payday to fight an actual legit boxer.  If this is the case, then it's only a waste of everyone's time and speculation.  If the fight does happen, it'll be a waste of your PPV dollars.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Best Review Ever

One of these? No no, friends, I was talking about this old-school Netflix review, but thanks for looking! (Click the pic to see a larger version.) I suddenly want to see one of these whipped up for every Will Smith movie, up to and including Six Degrees Of Separation.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Melodramatic Bee Theatre

I apparently wrote this years ago and have no memory of it whatsoever.  Clearly it's time for a re-staging!  (A 'bee-'staging?)

***********

* Bill is alone in his kitchen, a bottle of bourbon in front of him at the kitchen table. Brenda, Bill's wife, enters.  They are both bees.*

"Bill, it's 3 in the morning."

"I'm sorry, dear. I've just been thinking."

"Oh no, this isn't about Bobby's accident, is it? I've told you a hundred times, it wasn't your fault!"

"No, it wasn't. I'll wish for the rest of my life that I had taken a different route home from the little league game that day, but you're right, I have to stop blaming myself for being behind the wheel during the accident that put our son in a wheelchair.  I've made my peace with it."

"Oh Bill, I'm so happy to hear that."

"That's because I've focused myself on the true culprit. Brian Jackson. It was Brian who swerved into the oncoming lane and caused that collision. It was Brian who used his money and his high-priced
lawyers to escape justice."

"But Brian is one of your best friends! He said he felt awful about it! He's even offered to pay Bobby's medical bills!"

"His bills? His bills? Oh sure, Brenda, that's your solution to everything, throw a little money at the problem and it'll all go away. A little money won't get our son out of that chair! He'll never be able to
play with the other children, or play ball any more. Brian Jackson robbed my son of a normal life. And for that he must pay."

"Bill, you've had too much to drink. You're acting all crazy."

"Crazy? I'm acting crazy? Is it crazy that I can't to see my son shuffled in and out of hospitals the rest of his life while Brian Jackson is able to go on like nothing happened? No, Brenda, something must be done. I've made up my mind. I'm going to sting him."

"No Bill! You'll die!"

"I've gone over it a hundred times. It's a sacrifice I must make for our son. I have it all planned out. I'm going to catch up with Brian as he's leaving work tomorrow. I'll confront him right there, to his face. Oh, he'll try to talk his way out of it like always, but I'm though listening to his excuses. It's time
for him to pay the price."

"You can't! You can't kill yourself just to get revenge! What about me? What about Bobby, and Brittany and little Benjamin! You can't leave your family behind!"

"You don't think I've thought of that?! This is something I need to do. You've been like a queen to me, Brenda. I'll miss you and the children more than you'll ever know. Someday, the children (especially little Bobby) will remember their father as a man who stood up for his family."

"Bill, you're mad! Don't do this!"

"I've made up my mind, Brenda! I'm doing it! And there's nothing you can say to make my change my mind!"

"But....Brian Jackson is Bobby's real father!"

"What?"

"It's true, it's true, oh god it's true!"

"You were with Brian before you were with me? But....I thought I was the first male in the flock to catch up with you and mate!"

"Brian got there just before you did. Oh, it was foolish of me to fall for him at the time, but I was young and irresponsible. I didn't know what I was getting into. You know what Brian's like --- he has a lot of charm and sweet words, and before I knew it, I was pregnant with a swarm."

"A whole swarm?"

"Yes, but Bobby was the only one that survived the winter! And then you came along, and the timing was close enough that I just let you think that Bobby was yours. Oh Bill, I fell in love with you, I couldn't bear to break your heart with the news!"

"I can't believe it. Does Brian know?"

"I think he's always known. When we mated, his genitals broke off in an explosion of semen just like yours did. He must've known that was enough to father Bobby. That's why he wants to pay Bobby's bills. He feels as guilty as you did! Oh, Bill, I've wanted to tell you for years but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. You've always loved me and been there for me, and been a far better husband than Brian could've ever been. It was a stupid mistake, a night I wish I could take back, but I can't change the past. Please don't hate me!"

"Brenda, Brenda, my darling, I could never hate you. You had your reasons. I can't say as I can pretend to understand them, but you were doing it to protect me and Bobby. Even though it will take a while to get over the shock, it doesn't make me love Bobby any less. Oh Brenda, you've saved my life. All this time I was hating Brian, I never knew he was also feeling a father's grief. I'm not a murderer."

"Thank God!"

"It's late, I had better get some rest. I think I'll take Bobby down to the park tomorrow. He may be in a wheelchair, but his throwing arm is still strong!"

"Oh Bill, that's the spirit. Let's go to bed."

*phone rings*

"That's strange, who could be phoning at this hour? Hello?....Why Burt, what are you doing calling this late?....What?!....When did this happen?....I can't believe it!....What did the police say?....Have they told Beth?.....My God.....That's terrible, Burt. Brenda and I will be over to see her first thing in
the morning.....Thanks for calling, I appreciate it.....Goodbye."

"Who was that?"

"That was Burt Spencer, a fellow I work with. He said that Brian was found murdered earlier tonight."

"No! Murder?! That's impossible!"

"The police think it was a drive-by stinging. Possibly a wasp. Poor Beth is beside herself with grief."

"That's horrible!"

"I can't believe it's true. Who would ever want to murder Brian?"

"Yes....who indeed...."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell

I wasn't a huge Soundgarden/Audioslave fan, but Cornell inarguably had a lot of talent.  What a voice.  The music world will miss him.




Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Little Things That Give You Away

U2 is back on tour with their Joshua Tree anniversary tour, and while the middle section of the show features the entirety of JT from start to finish (holy lord, does 'Exit' sound great), the band threw an interesting curveball into the set for the show closer.  Here's a new track from their ever-forthcoming new album, rumoured to be out this fall after the Joshua Tree tour concludes --- though, then again, U2 also reportedly had this new disc coming out last fall as well.  Or the year before.  Or even quite quickly after Songs Of Innocence was released to capitalize on all the great buzz from....uh, that auto-iTunes download strategy that everyone hated.  Oh well.

As you might guess, I like this new song!  It's kind of a combination of Song For Someone, Every Breaking Wave and even a bit of Mercy with the build at the end.  It doesn't strike me as a potential single, though then again, the last time U2 released a ballad as their opening single from an album was 'With Or Without You' on Joshua Tree.  Maybe U2 is going totally retro here.

If the new album cover is indeed that image of the two kids (Bono's son and Edge's daughter, apparently) holding hands, that's adorable.
 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Carmen Pool

(I swear, I had the idea for this post long before SNL inexplicably did a Carmen Sandiego-themed spoof this past weekend.  I love that Sasheer Zamata’s borderline resemblance to the late Lynne “Chief” Thigpen has now been used not once, but twice on the show.)

The first time Gamblor grabbed me in his neon claws was all the back in the fifth grade, thanks to the help of PBS.

Thanks to a somewhat uneven split in class sizes, my fifth grade experience was a little unusual.  Myself and five other fellow fifth-graders (actually, it was just four to begin the year, with two more coming to the school during the year) comprised one single table of upper-year students within a class that was otherwise full of fourth-graders.  If you think it’s something of a waste of a teacher’s time and energy to tailor two specific lesson plans for a group of 20-25 Grade 4 kids and six Grade 5 kids, you’d be right!  To this day, I’m still not sure why the full Grade 5 class couldn’t have just added us “extras” into the mix — come on, it’s not like overcrowded classrooms weren’t as much a reality in the early 90’s as they are now! 

In short, the six of us found ourselves figuratively and literally on an island, all contained to our one little table while the teacher spent much of her focus on her much larger complement of Grade 4 students.  Needless to say, we needed something to do to pass the time, which is why we made the natural choice to start a betting pool around an educational game show.

That’s right, this was right in the era when “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?” was just about the biggest thing on children’s television.  All six of us were obsessed with the show, and at least one of us (ahem) also had the original Carmen Sandiego books and video game.  This led to discussions about the show, a very light increased interest in geography (mission accomplished, children’s educators!) and our daily pool. 

For those of you who aren’t 90’s kids, the concept of the game show was that Carmen Sandiego is this international master criminal who deploys her gang to steal various priceless artifacts and objects* from around the world.  The kid contestants on the show were junior detectives at the ACME Detective Agency (which I assume solved crimes in addition to supplying Wile E. Coyote’s single-minded quest to murder the Road Runner) and “tracked down” the henchperson who committed the crime by answering geography-related trivia questions.  The winner of the show moved onto a bonus round where they could try to catch Carmen herself, and if I recall correctly, this involved running around a giant floor map of a country or continent to try and place as many capital cities or landmarks as you could within 60 seconds.

* = this included things you could actually physically steal (i.e. the Mona Lisa, the crown jewels) to more out-there landmarks like the Leaning Tower Of Pisa, the Statue Of Liberty, etc.  Way to drop the ball, INTERPOL.  If someone is able to stealing a gigantic leaning tower and get away with it, no wonder the international law enforcement has to turn to a private detective agency with a largely-adolescent staff.
 
It was a pretty great show, all things considered, aside from the inexplicable lack of Canada-themed questions.  These things stood out to us proud Canucks!  What, was Carmen afraid to ever come up here for fear of the RCMP?  Was the world robbed of a Carmen Sandiego/Due South crossover?

Anyway, I’m not sure how the betting pool officially got started, though the idea was that each day, the six of us would bet on which character would be Carmen’s henchperson for that day’s episode.  There was a revolving cast of regular goons with various punny gimmicks.  Off the top of my head, there was…

* Penny Larceny, a kid criminal, ostensibly to counter the ACME detectives
* Top Grunge, a biker with sorry personal hygiene
* Slick Vic, a sleazy salesman type who seemed like a take on Herb Tarleck from WKRP In Cincinnati, a reference that 10-year-old Mark actually got since I was one of the few kids whose TV taste ran more to old sitcoms than cartoons.
* Double Trouble, twin brothers vaguely resembling the old MAD Magazine Spy vs. Spy
* RoboCrook, which I’m guessing MAY have been (call me crazy) a spoof of Robocop
* The Contessa, an upper-class snob that was more or less Donatella Versace, now that I think about it
* I want to say there was a giant anthropomorphic rat that committed crimes?  Maybe with some name like Terence Rat-again with a reference that flew over the heads of any 10-year-old.

It was this bunch and maybe about a half-dozen other crooks, so one could pick from several different options.  We’d all choose one different character each, and put up some minor object (a pen, pencil, ruler, magic marker, whatever) in the wager.  I have some vague memory of one of the girls betting a barrette one day, which the guys objected to on the basis that a barrette had no value to us.  It was a moot point, really, since given that there were only six people involved in the pool, the same objects changed back-and-forth on a pretty regular basis.  That said, it was winner-take-all, so if you guessed the henchman correctly, you collected quite the haul.

My prized victory (from a prediction of Penny Larceny, which I somehow remember) was a red multi-purpose Crayola stencil thing that I won one day in the pool and then never re-bet, since it was such an obvious score.  I used that stencil for years in math classes to trace all manner of parabolas and whatnot.  It’s quite possibly the stencil is still in my parents’ basement somewhere, though the box probably reads MARK’S SCHOOL STUFF rather than MARK’S GAMBLING WINNINGS.

Is it a little ironic that a show about international law enforcement led to children starting an illegal gambling operation?  Probably.  I’d argue that stencils and barrettes were pretty small-time, but then again, I’ve lost track of most of that original Grade 5 group.  For all I know, three of them are on trial at the Hague next week for trying to steal the Eiffel Tower.

That’s all for this post, so DO IT ROCKAPELLA
 

Monday, May 08, 2017

Fifth Major Repercussions

The Players Championship likes to refer to itself as “the fifth major,” which actually ends up diminishing the tournament more than elevating it, in my view.  It’s certainly a prestigious event that any golfer would want to win, but even by bringing the whole kinda-a-major issue into play, it inevitably leads to a “yeah, but…” scenario.

But let’s pretend that the TPC was ‘made’ a major from day one by the PGA Tour.  Frankly, there didn’t appear to be much stopping them doing this in the first place, other than perhaps a sense of modesty about trying to horn in on the action of the four established majors.  If The Players was always considered a major, however, the list of winners significantly alters the course of golf history.

Now, big caveat here — had the Players actually been a major all along, it’s quite possible the list of winners would be quite different.  You’d have altered fields (i.e. former major winners still qualifying under their standard five-year exemptions, or past Players champions) as well as some guys simply playing differently when faced with “major” pressure.  Given the list of somewhat notable major tournament underachievers who have won the Players, this aspect can’t be overlooked.

Nevertheless, let’s pretend the 43 winners played out exactly as they did, even under a major designation.  How does this impact the all-time major rankings?

* Jack Nicklaus’ record goes from 18 to 21 major victories, making it all the more untouchable.
* Tiger Woods boosts his own major total from 14 to 16, so he’d have an even tougher time catching Jack.  However, Tiger’s win in the 2013 Players would’ve ended his post-knee surgery major drought and quite notably changed his career narrative in the wake of his injuries and his sex scandal.
* Sergio Garcia gets the major monkey off his back years earlier due to his win at the 2008 Players.  Ditto for Adam Scott, David Duval, Henrik Stenson, and Tom Kite, all of whom carried the ‘best player without a major’ banner for a while.
* Calvin Peete, not Tiger, becomes the first African-American major winner all the way back in 1985.
* Several one-time major winners add a second big title to their resumes — Lanny Wadkins, Al Geiberger, Jerry Pate, John Mahaffey, Justin Leonard, Jason Day, Kite, Duval, Scott, Stenson, Garcia.
* Several two-time major winners add a third big title to their resumes — Nick Price, Martin Kaymer, Sandy Lyle, Lee Janzen, and Greg Norman.  I think even a third major wouldn’t have done too much to improve Norman’s reputation as a choker in the big events, but even still, not many guys have won three majors.  It definitely adds a big “on the other hand…” to discussions of Norman’s greatness, as more people would openly recognize him as one of the best ever.
* Davis Love III, Fred Couples, Steve Elkington, and Hal Sutton all go from one-time major winners to three-time champs since each man won two Players titles.  This puts Sutton and Elkington into the Hall of Fame, it ends any question about Couples’ induction, and it turns Love from one of the most vaguely disappointing underachievers at the majors into a legit big-game hunter.
* Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson and Ray Floyd add to their legacies with a seventh, sixth, and fifth career major, respectively.
* Peete, Mark Hayes, KJ Choi, Jodie Mudd, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Tim Clark, Stephen Ames, Fred Funk and Craig Perks go into the history books as major champions, with the Players becoming the major win they could never quite grasp in the Big Four.  First of all, yay Canada for getting another major golf winner in Ames.  Secondly, Perks (who won the 2002 Players and literally nothing else in his pro career) also immediately enters the Worst Major Champion Ever discussion.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Legend Of Nevada Mark

At a recent pub trivia with my friend M and her friend Katie, we found ourselves faced with a deceptively simple question: “the desert known as Death Valley is in what U.S. state?”

I always had it in my head that Death Valley (the most arid, horrific desert of them all) was located in Nevada, a state that is roughly 90% desert, 9% slot machines and 1% Penn Gillette.  My childhood interest in the Undertaker also led to this conclusion, since I had some vague recollection of looking up where he was “actually from” and learning that yep, Death Valley was in Nevada.  Of course, the WWF announced the Undertaker as hailing* from Death Valley, a lay-up of a fake hometown if there ever was one.

* = my two favourite fake wrestling hometowns: 1. Issac Yankem (a wrestler with an evil dentist gimmick) hailing from Decatur, Illinois — as in ‘decay’-ter, get it?  2. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase having a seasonal residence that switched up every few months, since he was so rich that he could obviously afford homes all over the world.

Katie, on the other hand, was pretty sure that Death Valley was in California.  Both she, and M to a lesser extent, remembered a Sweet Valley High novel from their teen-fiction days that was set in Death Valley, and since those characters all hailed from California, boom goes the dynamite.  I was skeptical; the SVH kids could just as easily have made a quick trip across the state border.  Surely not all of their adventures took place in the little town of Sweet Valley.  Those books escaped my attention when I was a kid, but certainly there had to be something like “Sweet Valley High Goes To Hawaii,” or “Sweet Valley High Visits Paris” or “Sweet Valley High Goes To Decatur, Illinois.”

M was more or less on the fence but leaning towards California, whereas Katie was quite adamant.  I was as equally adamant about Nevada.  We were at loggerheads, which as a sidebar, would be a great name for a pub.  (“Where were you two all night?”  We were at Loggerheads.”)  In a case like this, I referred to my usual wager when faced with a trivia team dispute; we put down my answer, and if I was wrong, I owed Katie a beer.  Why did we go with my answer over hers, with her offering a vice versa wager?  Maybe I pressed my case a little more strongly, or maybe the Undertaker just seemed like a more inherently reliable source than Sweet Valley High, who knows.  The point was, our guess was Nevada, and it was dead wrong, pardon the Undertaker pun.

Folks, the only thing more embarrassing in the pub trivia world than being “that guy who insists he is always right” is being “that guy who insists he is always right and is actually wrong.”  It wasn’t based on ego or anything, I just legitimately totally thought that Nevada was the correct answer.  I would’ve bet a thousand bucks on Nevada being the answer.

We lost the trivia night by multiple points, so at least that question didn’t cost us the game or anything.  Katie at least enjoyed her beer.  This was maybe the second or third time I’d met Katie and the first time I’d really met her in the sense of spoken to her for any length of time; the initial encounters were just casual “hi/bye” things at a party, or at a comedy show.  So since she was essentially a new face to me, whenever I’m referring to her with M, I now call her Death Valley Katie.  My hope is that this catches on, since giving her such a badass nickname should more than atone for my poor trivia team etiquette.

On the flip side, this could also lead to my being known as Nevada Mark.  I’ve written before about my lifelong ambition to get “Mark The Shark” as a nickname, so this new one could either be a step in that ultimate direction (a shark at a casino table, perhaps?) it’s also not a bad nickname on its own.  I’ve been to Nevada, for one.  I’m sure that my week spent in Las Vegas when I was fourteen years old counts as a lifelong affinity for the state, sure.  We went to see Hoover Dam!  Maybe that’s why my family refers to me as That Dam Mark all the time.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Random Nonsense

What better link for May 1st than Sports Illustrated's 1993 profile of noted relief pitcher Sam "Mayday" Malone?  After retirement, Malone went on to own a Boston tavern of some repute.

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If I'm Gregg Popovich, I'm focusing less on the whole "win the NBA title this year" thing (I'd be surprised if San Antonio makes it past the Rockets, let alone the Warriors) and spending most of my team calling Phil Jackson to swing a Kristaps Porzingis trade.  It's clear the Zinger isn't happy in New York, it's clear the Knicks love to acquire any past-his-prime former star, it's clear Pops is some kind of a wizard who can trick opposing teams into making terrible trades....everything adds up to a Porzingis-for-LaMarcus Aldridge trade.  Aldridge is still *just* good enough for Phil to convince himself that he's making the Knicks better.  If Popovich casually mentions that Aldridge once played in a triangle offense in high school (citation required!), Jackson will be doubly sold.  The Knicks continue to suffer while the combination of Kawhi and the Zinger lead the Spurs into another era of championships.  Too simple!

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This is a few years old, but according to researchers, Marconi Union's "Weightless" is just about the most relaxing song of all time.*  You be the judge.  Frankly, I'm disappointed the band wasn't called Macaroni Union.

* = though I kind of like some of their other listed options.  "Pure Shores" is such a throwback to my high school days that it's ridiculous.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Reset

As per the unbreakable laws of a social media meme, I must...
1. Put your iTunes/iPod/Spotify playlist etc. on shuffle or random.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS!
4. (Make a snarky comment about the song choice!)


1 ) IF SOMEONE SAYS “IS THIS OKAY”, YOU SAY?
Automatic Flowers (this actually sounds like plausible slang, I'll try to make this catch on)

2 ) WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
Hawkmoon 269 (uh...yes?....)

3 ) WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
Hey Jude (ooh, gender neutral name for the gender neutral question!)

4 ) HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
Vaccination Scar (I've always been afraid of needles, so maybe I have *emotional* scars from my childhood vaccinations?  Thanks for nothing, whatever my pediatrician's name was!)

5 ) WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE?
Love Ain't for Keeping (so I'm destined to be alone?  Math checks out!)

6 ) WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
Want And Able (well, at the least the first half is right)

7 ) WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
Girl With One Eye ("Mark is the best female cyclops I know."  "He's also the best female cyclops 'eye' know."  "Our mutual love of awful puns must be why we're such good friends with Mark.")

8 ) WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR PARENTS?
Yellow Ledbetter (I dunno about this one, my feelings about my parents aren't incomprehensible gibberish)

9 ) WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
A Day In The Life (technically 100% accurate)

10 ) WHAT IS 2+2?
Special Occasion (as in, a special occasion 4 a party!  I should get a job writing Smokey Robinson-themed e-vites.)

11 ) WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Heartbreak Stroll (geez, this seems ominous, and not just because my BFF knows how much I hate walking)

12 ) WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Angel Doll (I'd say this was also very accurate, though it's a bit of a layup.  I mean, half the songs ever written have titles saluting someone they love Also, my secret crush works for a toy company that makes David Boreanaz action figures.)

13 ) WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
Hot Knife (no no iTunes, it asked for a life story, not a knife story)

14 ) WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
Feral (hahahahahahahahaha)(I'd love to be Will Ferrell when I grow up!)

15 ) WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Be Still (accurate!  I just stand there and let the Homer and Abe Simpson "you've got to play it cool" song run through my head.  My crush, meanwhile, wonders why I've become a living statue and walks away in confusion.  It would be upsetting if my crush weren't a T-Rex, so really, my life was saved.)

16 ) WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
Isn't It A Pity (what the hell, Mom and Dad?!  Well, Yellow Ledbetter right back atcha!)

17 ) WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
Blip On A Screen (I'm not sure my future spouse will sign off on any Streets songs in our wedding reception mix.  Then again, maybe the meme question is literal and I'll literally be dancing to a blip on a screen.  Does this mean I hire a robot DJ?  Is my entire wedding taking place in the Matrix?)

18 ) WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
People Like Us (I do find people like me to be fascinating, mostly because I'm so fascinating.  My hobby is being humble!)

19 ) WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
God Makes No Mistakes (see, whereas my folks openly throw shade at me, I put down my friends with much more subtlety.

20 ) WHAT’S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?
Barry Bonds (one of the few entries on this list that made me legitimately laugh out loudWho knew I had such strong feelings about the sanctity of the baseball record book?)

21 ) HOW WILL YOU DIE?
Like A Rolling Stone (note to self: don't go near any cliffs)

22 ) WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU REGRET?
Another One Bites The Dust ("Mark, did you just confess to murder on your blog?"  "No, I swear, it was just a meme!"  "Boys, I think we can close the book on every unsolved murder in New York's history.")

23 ) WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Gotta Stay High (stoners and tightrope walkers are both hilarious)

24 ) WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
Tunnel Of Love (this is more of a wistful song than an outright sad one from ol' Bruce, though I suspect his alimony checks might argue otherwise.  For me, I'm scared of actual tunnel of love rides.  Stuck on a boat in fetid darkness in virtual darkness?  No thanks.)

25 ) WILL YOU EVER GET MARRIED?
Talk To Me (this sounds like the beginning of a Who's On First routine)

26 ) WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST?
Reach Out I'll Be There (ahhhh, a disembodied hand!)

27 ) DOES ANYONE LIKE YOU?
Maggie's Farm (I know of at least two Maggies that like me, so the math checks out.)

28 ) IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
This Flight Tonight (only if I was flying United.  Zing, timely humour!)

29 ) WHAT HURTS RIGHT NOW?
First Week/Last Week...Carefree (last week was actually pretty good, though my first week in existence was probably pretty painful.  All that bright light!  I miss the womb!)

30 ) WHAT WILL YOU POST THIS AS?
Reset