Friday, March 31, 2017

Other People's Writing

* An admittedly morbid but fascinating look from The Guardian's Sam Knight at what will happen to the United Kingdom (and really, the world) when Queen Elizabeth II passes away, and how institutions all over the UK have prepared for the sad day.  It ranges from BBC Radio already having their playlists arranged with properly sober music choices to, in fact, quite a bit of uncertainty since it's been so long (1952) since the UK has had to deal with a changeover in royal power.

* As someone whose parents have a weekly "Dominos night" (on Tuesday, for the two-medium special deal) and whose friends always order Dominos when we get together to watch Survivor, I've had more than my share of the pizza chain over the years.  Bloomberg BusinessWeek's Susan Berfield looks at how Dominos regained its foothold in the pizza market thanks to tech-friendly ways of ordering and delivery.  (Bonus points to Bloomberg for laying out the article to resemble the Dominos Pizza Tracker.)  There's also some focus on my single favourite ad campaign of all time, the "our pizza isn't good, we're changing it" that was so upfront it was actually brilliant.  Maybe I should start doing that.  Folks, this blog's content has been going downhill for years...

* Speaking of Survivor, here's a wonderful story from Good Times Santa Cruz's Aaron Carnes about how the show unwittingly formed a connection that led to Kelly van den Berghe (wife of Lex, from S3 and S8) getting a kidney donated to her.

* Oral history time!  Sportsnet's John Molinaro, my old pal from the Toronto FC beat, put together the oral history of all the club's ups and downs over their first ten years of existence.  (Specifically, it was about eight years of down and then the last two years have been ups.)

* A rare good article about Saturday Night Live from Rolling Stones, which a few years back published a ranking of SNL cast members that was so bad that the earth should've been salted so such a piece could never again grow.  This one, however, lets the cast speak for themselves, with various actors describing their favourite sketches of all time.  Highlights include learning how everyone kept a straight face during Chris Farley's Chippendales audition sketch, and that Christopher Walken's Continental was actually based on a real show.

* A profile of the always-fascinating Jack White by the New Yorker's Alec Wilkinson.  There's rather little about the White Stripes since the band is not exactly at the forefront of what White is up to these days, which is turning Third Man Records into a cornerstone for the vinyl record industry.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The 37 Best Killers Songs

Wait, are the Killers one of my favourite bands?  I own and enjoy all four of their studio albums, and I own and enjoy their B-sides album (well, by the standards of ‘this is pretty good for a B-sides record,’ since there’s a reason those tracks were on the cutting room floor).  So by this standard, yes, I guess I think they’re terrific!  Now, they’re not quite in my upper tier of favourite bands, as I’ve never seen them live.  I’ve never even felt any particular yearning to see them live, which is probably the cutoff point between “band I like” and “favourite band.”

That being said, I’m running out of bands to feature in this Favourite Songs posts, so down to the next tier we go!  This list is based on personal preference, and I might have a notably different order if I’d written this post tomorrow.  I decided on 37 ‘favourite songs’ for the Killers, by which I mean there was originally a longer list but realized that you know what, everything from #38 on down was a good boat but not really one of my top-drawer choices.  If your favourite Killers song isn’t on the list, pretend it was #38 and I really hemmed and hawed over cutting it (when, in fact, I don’t even remember what #38 was!)  Only original material counts, which is kind of a shame in this case since the Killers’ cover of “Romeo & Juliet” is better than the Dire Straits original and would’ve been probably a top-five placement.

Onto the list!

37. Daddy’s Eyes
36. All The Pretty Faces
35. Change Your Mind
34. Goodnight, Travel Well
33. Neon Tiger
32. Andy, You’re A Star
31. Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf
30. The Ballad Of Michael Valentine
29. Bling (Confession Of A King)
28. Human
27. Smile Like You Mean It
26. Just Another Girl
25. Why Do I Keep Counting?
24. My List
23. Tranquilize
22. Bones
21. Show You How
20. Heart Of A Girl
19. Joy Ride
18. Entertude/Exitlude (from “Sam’s Town”)
17. Deadlines and Commitments
16. Here With Me
15. Be Still
14. Uncle Jonny
13. Sweet Talk
12. Read My Mind
11. Spaceman
10. Somebody Told Me
9. Losing Touch
8. For Reasons Unknown
7. Runaways
6. Sam’s Town
5. I Can’t Stay
4. Mr. Brightside
3. When You Were Young
2. Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine
1. All These Things That I’ve Done

Friday, March 24, 2017

The WILTY Dream Team

I'm no stranger to late-night YouTube dives, and my recent obsession has been the British panel show "Would I Lie To You?"  The premise is simple --- two teams of three comedians/celebrities/whatever try to guess whether one person on the other team is telling an untrue or true story. 

David Mitchell and Lee Mack are in every episode captaining the opposing teams, and needless to say, they're hilarious.  So in this post trying to form the best possible WILTY all-star episode, Mitchell and Mack are no-brainers.  Rob Brydon is the host, naturally.  (Original first-season host Angus Deayton is essentially the Pete Best of this show.)

I'll tell you right now, this post is complete since I couldn't decide on the sixth person.  It's a close race between Rhod Gilbert, Sarah Millican and Henning Wehn.  (Honourable mention to Kevin Bridges, who I think has only been on the show once but perhaps has the single funniest segment in WILTY history.  "For the love of God...")  So I'm just going to list the big three and you can debate the sixth amongst yourselves.  Plus, now I can write some other post about this topic later!  Content!

The all-stars....

* Claudia Winkleman, the WILTY GOAT
I use the 'GOAT' designation not necessarily because she's the funniest (though she is extremely funny), but because she clearly seems to be the best at the actual game.  Look at this clip package; she's unbeaten!  She's that perfect blend of so logically kooky that you can believe any story she might tell, and she is a phenomenal liar.  Her "designate people as animals" clip is so matter-of-fact that it's almost scary.

* Greg Davies, the giant of laughter
Almost the best storyteller ever, and my god, that "vegetables" story is the best.  I've watched the bit about the teacher losing the passports maybe a dozen times and I'm crying with laughter every time.

* Bob Mortimer, storyteller supreme
As great as Davies is at spinning yarns, nobody touches Mortimer.  His friends' names!  His completely illogical behaviour in his youth!  It's honestly a bit disappointing whenever Bob has to sell a lie, since why make something up when you could just let him talk about his actual life for five minutes?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Monopoly News!

I was going to write this post about the new Monopoly pieces a few days ago but held off due an overwhelming disturbance in the Force.  I was like, “hmm, I should hold off just in case another piece of Monopoly-related news somehow breaks in the next few days.  I’ve got a hunch!”  Since my hunches are always correct*, I now get to just combine both pieces of news into one post, rather than “monopolize” your time by making you read two separate posts.  Puns!

* = case in point, I’m doing really well in one of my March Madness brackets.  The moral of the story is that if you run six brackets, at least one will be a winner!

Firstly, the biggest shakeup in the Monopoly world is that three of the longtime game pieces are going the way of the dodo.*  (Which apparently is one of the few birds that isn’t under consideration for being a game piece.)  The thimble, wheelbarrow and boot are all OUT, to be replaced by a penguin, a rubber duck and a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

* = if you'll notice the address of that link, you'll also note that someone at the CBC doesn't know how to spell "Monopoly."  Come on, CBC!  Somewhere, Rick Mercer just shakes his head in disgust.

This isn’t the first time the game has switched up its pieces, as they introduced a cat (replacing the old iron) a few years ago.  A more learned cultural critic than I could note how Monopoly is slowly phasing out all of the “working-class” items in favour of “random crap,” which someone goes against the game’s gimmick of one rising up to make oneself a business tycoon.

On the plus side, the top hat is staying, as that’s my go-to piece whenever I sit down for a game of Monopoly.  My usual order is preference is Top Hat, then the Wheelbarrow (RIP), and then in a pinch, the Iron Dog.  I always refer to that piece as “the iron dog” rather than just “the dog” due to some children’s detective book I read literally 30 years ago that involved some major clue being hidden inside a metallic statue of a dog.  If they ever make a movie about Margaret Thatcher’s pet hound, the title is already spoken for.

I probably don’t have to worry about my beloved Top Hat leaving the board anytime soon, since I have to imagine that one will be around for as long as Rich Uncle Pennybags (a.k.a. Mr. Monopoly) is still the mascot.  God help us all if they decide to modernize him into some kind of Richard Branson-style “cool billionaire” in a sportcoat and jeans.  If they replace the Top Hat with a Bluetooth Headset, I’ll be picketing Hasbro’s offices.

The second item is that a Monopoly-based musical is in the works, since literally everything can be a musical these days.  To answer your obvious question, no, I’m not going to auditioning for the role of Rich Uncle Pennybags, though the resemblance is uncanny.  (My history of auditioning for musicals is not great.)   

I’m disappointed that my dad isn’t writing the songs for this show, given his long-standing tradition of singing place name-related songs during any game of Monopoly.  Landing on Indiana Ave leads to a rendition of “Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor.  Landing on Boardwalk leads to him singing, naturally, the Drifters’ classic “Under The Boardwalk.”  Landing on Pacific Avenue and it’s him singing that old South Pacific standard “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”….okay, that last one is made up.  The point is that Monopoly already has a long and proud musical history based around my father’s lack of knowledge about any song written after the year 1971.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hot! Live! Music!

Sarah Slean, "Climbing Up The Walls"
Having seen Sarah Slean four times in concert, she is my most-viewed live artist this side of U2.  I guess that factoid would've been more thematic if Radiohead was my top concert act, but whatever, this cover is great.  All you Sleaniacs should know this by now, but her new album is out in a matter of weeks.

Bruce Springsteen, "Real World"
I found this one about five seconds after posting last month's Springsteen-centric Hot! Live! Music! entry but really, one never needs an excuse to promote a great Bruce song.  This gem is from (of all places) the much-maligned Human Touch album, a.k.a. the one that Bruce released on the same day as the equally lightly-regarded Lucky Town.  So it was a double album but not a double album, yet the two records shared the usual double-album problem of "man, why didn't they just take the best 12 songs and make one good record instead of two mediocre ones?"  Fun fact: Real World is a rare co-writing joint for Springsteen, as the melody here was from longtime E Street pianist Roy Bittan.

The Edge, "Love Is Blindness"
Speaking of musicians performing stripped-down versions of songs, here's the Edge.  Listen to the voice on this guy!  Is there anything the Edge can't do, minus grow hair?

Robyn Adele Anderson, "Clint Eastwood"
You may recognize RAA from her collaborations with Postmodern Jukebox.  I don't know if she is trying to steal their thunder with her own old-timey cover YouTube videos or if she was already going this before Scott Bradlee and company came along.  Admittedly, part of me would find it hilarious if there was this really bitter feud within the YouTube old-timey music cover community...that sounds like a Christopher Guest movie just waiting to happen.  Let's also recognize RAA's shrewd marketing, or perhaps just dumb luck in the name department; her video will get some curious views from everyone searching for either 'Adele' or 'Robyn.'  (And I guess 'Anderson,' for those looking for Harry Anderson magic tricks.) As I've thought for years ever since Gorillaz released this track, what was Clint Eastwood's reaction to this?  Frankly, I'd settle for a video of Clint's face as someone tries to explain to him the entire concept of Gorillaz.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day!

In the words of Homer Simpson, "mmmmm, pie."

In the words of mathematicians, 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482534211706798214808651328230664709384460955058223172535940812848111745028410270193852110555964462294895493038196442881097566593344612847564823378678316527120190914564856692346034861045432664821339360726024914127372458700660631558817488152092096282925409171536436789259036001133053054882046652138414695194151160943305727036575959195309218611738193261179310511854807446237996274956735188575272489122793818301194912983367336244065664308602139494639522473719070217986094370277053921717629317675238467481846766940513200056812714526356082778577134275778960917363717872146844090122495343014654958537105079227968925892354201995611212902196086403441815981362977477130996051870721134999999837297804995105973173281609631859502445945534690830264252230825334468503526193118817101000313783875288658753320838142061717766914730359825349042875546873115956286388235378759375195778185778053217122680661300192787661119590921642019893809525720106548586327886593615338182796823030195203530185296899577362259941389124972177528347913151557485724245415069595082953311686172785588907509838175463746493931925506040092770167113900984882401285836160356370766010471018194295559619894676783744944825537977472684710404753464620804668425906949129331367702898915210475216205696602405803815019351125338243003558764024749647326391419927260426992279678235478163600934172164121992458631503028618297455570674983850549458858692699569092721079750930295532116534498720275596023648066549911988183479775356636980742654252786255181841757467289097777279380008164706001614524919217321721477235014144197356854816136115735255213347574184946843852332390739414333454776241686251898356948556209921922218427255025425688767179049460165346680498862723279178608578438382796797668145410095388378636095068006422512520511739298489608412848862694560424196528502221066118630674427862203919494504712371378696095636437191728746776465757396241389086583264599581339047802759009946576407895126946839835259570982582262052248940772671947826848260147699090264013639443745530506820349625245174939965143142980919065925093722169646151570985838741059788595977297549893016175392846813826868386894277415599185592524595395943104997252468084598727364469584865383673622262609912460805124388439045124413654976278079771569143599770012961608944169486855584840635342207222582848864815845602850601684273945226746767889525213852254995466672782398645659611635488623057745649803559363456817432411251507606947945109659609402522887971089314566913686722874894056010150330861792868092087476091782493858900971490967598526136554978189312978482168299894872265880485756401427047755513237964145152374623436454285844479526586782105114135473573952311342716610213596953623144295248493718711014576540359027993440374200731057853906219838744780847848968332144571386875194350643021845319104848100537061468067491927819119793995206141966342875444064374512371819217999839101591956181467514269123974894090718649423196156794520809514655022523160388193014209376213785595663893778708303906979207734672218256259966150142150306803844773454920260541466592520149744285073251866600213243408819071048633173464965145390579626856100550810665879699816357473638405257145910289706414011097120628043903975951567715770042033786993600723055876317635942187312514712053292819182618612586732157919841484882916447060957527069572209175671167229109816909152801735067127485832228718352093539657251210835791513698820914442100675103346711031412671113699086585163983150197016515116851714376576183515565088490998985998238734552833163550764791853589322618548963213293308985706420467525907091548141654985946163718027098199430992448895757128289059232332609729971208443357326548938239119325974636673058360414281388303203824903758985243744170291327656180937734440307074692112019130203303801976211011004492932151608424448596376698389522868478312355265821314495768572624334418930396864262434107732269780280731891544110104468232527162010526522721116603966655730925471105578537634668206531098965269186205647693125705863566201855810072936065987648611791045334885034611365768675324944166803962657978771855608455296541266540853061434443185867697514566140680070023787765913440171274947042056223053899456131407112700040785473326993908145466464588079727082668306343285878569830523580893306575740679545716377525420211495576158140025012622859413021647155097925923099079654737612551765675135751782966645477917450112996148903046399471329621073404375189573596145890193897131117904297828564750320319869151402870808599048010941214722131794764777262241425485454033215718530614228813758504306332175182979866223717215916077166925474873898665494945011465406284336639379003976926567214638530673609657120918076383271664162748888007869256029022847210403172118608204190004229661711963779213375751149595015660496318629472654736425230817703675159067350235072835405670403867435136222247715891504953098444893330963408780769325993978054193414473774418426312986080998886874132604721569516239658645730216315981931951673538129741677294786724229246543668009806769282382806899640048243540370141631496589794092432378969070697794223625082216889573837986230015937764716512289357860158816175578297352334460428151262720373431465319777741603199066554187639792933441952154134189948544473456738316249934191318148092777710386387734317720754565453220777092120190516609628049092636019759882816133231666365286193266863360627356763035447762803504507772355471058595487027908143562401451718062464362679456127531813407833033625423278394497538243720583531147711992606381334677687969597030983391307710987040859133746414428227726346594704745878477872019277152807317679077071572134447306057007334924369311383504931631284042512192565179806941135280131470130478164378851852909285452011658393419656213491434159562586586557055269049652098580338507224264829397285847831630577775606888764462482468579260395352773480304802900587607582510474709164396136267604492562742042083208566119062545433721315359584506877246029016187667952406163425225771954291629919306455377991403734043287526288896399587947572917464263574552540790914513571113694109119393251910760208252026187985318877058429725916778131496990090192116971737278476847268608490033770242429165130050051683233643503895170298939223345172201381280696501178440874519601212285993716231301711444846409038906449544400619869075485160263275052983491874078668088183385102283345085048608250393021332197155184306354550076682829493041377655279397517546139539846833936383047461199665385815384205685338621867252334028308711232827892125077126294632295639898989358211674562701021835646220134967151881909730381198004973407239610368540664319395097901906996395524530054505806855019567302292191393391856803449039820595510022635353619204199474553859381023439554495977837790237421617271117236434354394782218185286240851400666044332588856986705431547069657474585503323233421073015459405165537906866273337995851156257843229882737231989875714159578111963583300594087306812160287649628

Monday, March 13, 2017

Breaking Bad, Abbrv

Needless to say, you should watch all of Breaking Bad from start to finish.  Do it now, if you haven't already.  Like, right now.  Leave work, go home, buy a membership to a streaming service that carries that series and don't leave the house for the next three days.  (If you live in southern Ontario, this coincides nicely with this monster blizzard we're supposed to be getting.)  It is arguably the best TV show of all time and should absolutely be enjoyed from start to finish in its proper form.

THAT BEING SAID...this is a really cool idea.  Some fans sat down and rather amazingly edited the entirety of Breaking Bad into a two-hour movie.  Now, I haven't actually sat down and watched this myself, so I apologize if, halfway through, it suddenly morphs into a commercial for a timeshare in Daytona Beach.  Still, it certainly seems like a good idea for any BB fan who is interested in re-watching the series in a unique way.

Breaking Bad - The Movie from Breaking Bad - The Movie on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Beas? BEES?

First of all, the “Beads/BEES?!” bit is one of the most underrated of all Arrested Development gags.  But this is about another sitcom.

For years, I’ve been under the impression that The Office’s Pam Beasley spelled her last name the aforementioned way.  On a recent rematch of the series, however, I’ve discovered that her last name is…Beesly?!  What gives?

Technically, I could’ve been wrong this whole time.  BUT IF SO, why did Michael Scott (a lover of obvious puns if there ever was one) never make a single Beesly/bees/honey/etc. joke throughout the entirety of the series?  Am I being gaslit?  Is this some kind of Mandela Effect/Berenstain Bears situation?

If anyone knows Jenna Fischer personally, ask her about this.  Tell her a guy on the internet is curious about her character’s name; I’m sure she’ll drop everything to clear the matter up.  Or she'll say "my last name is spelled 'Fisher,' some fan you are," and I'll officially check into an asylum.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Adjacent To Heroism

Back in my younger days, I spent a summer working at Storybook Gardens, the most magical place on Earth (citation required).  For non-Londoners, Storybook is a kids’ theme park with a general “based on nursery rhymes” gimmick, and it has been a staple of southern Ontario tourism for decades.

My twin jobs were to a) operate the merry-go-round and b) dress up in a makeshift old-timey conductor’s uniform to run the “Storybook Express” train (a.k.a. a glorified riding lawnmower) around the park.  While mostly fun, there were certainly a few days when the hot summer sun became a bit much, or the kids crossed the line from “aw, how adorable” to “horrific little monsters,” or the dang Storybook Express malfunctioned mid-ride and I had to stand there amidst the goose crap* while a technician re-connected the whatever to the thing-a-ma-bob.

* = there’s probably no metric to measure this, but I would bet cash money that Canada geese see Springbank Park as the world’s single biggest toilet.  The sheer volume of geese generates an unholy amount of goose feces, and while “geese feces” is fun to say, it’s less fun to scrape off your boots.

So needless to say, Mark enjoyed his breaks.  If I recall correctly, it was 30 minutes of breaktime that I used to either grab a bite to eat, or just outright take a nap in the employee break room.  Like I said, some of those summer days were awfully warm.  Plus, my shifts started early.  Plus, I’m lazy!

One day, however, I was actually well-rested and just using my break to get lunch.  I grabbed a slice of pizza and a soda from one of the park’s food booths and was headed back to the break room to eat.  Thanks to a long line and the lack of an “employees can cut in front” policy,* I was running short on time before my shift resumed.  Still, I wasn’t sweating the clock too much until The Incident occurred.

* = I mean, come on, people.  I’ve been working all day to provide you and your bratty children with magical storybook enjoyment!  I shouldn’t have to wait for pizza!  Outta the way!

Like park employee both new and old, I was required to take a basic first aid course as part of my training.  While this is unquestionably a logical thing to learn, I certainly approached that course as just another step in the process rather than something that would need to be crucially important at some point.  Given my day-to-day duties, learning basic first aid was likely not going to be as utilized nearly as regularly as, say, learning how to reconnect the whatever to the Storybook Express.  (Man, I should’ve paid more attention during that lawnmower maintenance seminar.)  So sure, while it was handy to know, the first aid stuff didn’t seem to be too critical…

…UNTIL IT WAS.  About 30 yards away from where I was standing, pizza in hand, a little girl seemed to be choking.  Her parents were visibly concerned and her dad had kind of a makeshift Heimlich maneuver going, but his form wasn’t as measured as the proper style I’d learned just weeks before from a trained medical professional.  So clearly, it was my time to intercede.  I tossed my pizza and soda literally on the ground and began a sprint towards the scene.

And then after I’d run about ten yards, the little girl stopped choking.  Whatever it was she’d had trouble swallowing, it was now dislodged and she was totally fine.  She hugged her dad and went about merrily playing like nothing had happened.  By the time I actually made it to them, the family almost seemed surprised to see me.  “Oh, thanks for asking!  She’s fine, no problem, yadda yadda yadda.”  I considered giving the father a few pointers on proper Heimlich technique but whatever, his method was also effective.  He just never had the idea to hype it up like Henry Heimlich did.

On the grand scale, tragedy was averted.  On a lesser scale, my stomach was in peril since my lunch was ruined.  I’m not one to litter, though I didn’t want to take an extra five seconds to properly dispose of my food since time was seemingly of the essence.  Rushing to help a choking kid is well worth some soda on the ground, no question.  Likewise, I didn’t want to carefully just put it on the ground or something since, again, that would’ve taken some time and even if it’s carefully placed, it’s still on the ground.  As my personal motto goes, If Food Is On The Ground, Don’t Swallow It Down.  Plus, I’d left that pizza and soda unattended for a few minutes.  What if a bird had momentarily swooped down to peck at it, and then I’d eaten the slice none the wiser and contracted avian flu?  What if I’d set the slice down in a pile of geese feces (again, this crap was everywhere)?  Once that food left my hands, for all intents and purposes, it was garbage. 

Still, every legendary act of heroism requires some level of sacrifice from the hero.  Clearly, my brief mad dash towards an easily-averted problem counted as such capital-H Heroism.  In giving up that pizza and pop, I was hungry for three more hours.  That’s right, three!  It’s a wonder I didn’t waste away right there next to the carousel.  That was a full, nutritious lunch (uh, citation required) and the four dollars it cost to buy that lunch just tossed away without a thought, since a life needed saving. 

Well done, me.  Kudos, self.  It was right then and there, as I was catching my breath since I was inexplicably winded after running ten measly yards, that I knew that my legend would one day echo through the Springbank woods like the stories of Paul Bunyan.  And really, what did Paul Bunyan do besides be enormous and swing a mean axe?  Did he take a 90-minute first aid course?  Hell no!  Did he know the whole thing about timing chest compressions along with the beat of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive”?  Doubtful.  I wonder if Bunyan was familiar any of the Gibb brothers’ work.

It’s probably for the best that I didn’t ask the choking girl’s father for four bucks in compensation.  

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Conan The Luchador

I think we can all agree, El Gallo Loco needs a match with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.  What the heck, throw John Cena in there against Bebe Malo in some type of "you must diaper your opponent to win" stipulation match.