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!"


"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.


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!


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.