Monday, July 31, 2017

Other People's Writing

That Jenny Slate/worst date item ended up morphing into an entire stand-alone post, so we're overdue for a proper Other People's Writing.

* The Ringer’s Katie Baker pays tribute to A League Of Their Own, easily one of the best sports movies ever made.  The real controversy of the 1992 Best Supporting Actress race wasn’t that Marisa Tomei won, but that ALOTO didn’t score at least two nominations.  (Lori Petty for sure, and flip a coin between Madonna and Rosie…if you could nominate a tandem act for one nomination, both of them).  Also, LOL at Debra Winger’s terrible reasoning for passing on the movie.

* A superb profile of Ted Leo by Stereogum’s Michael Tedder.  It’s the kind of profile that makes you absolutely root for Ted Leo and gives you a full and complete portrait of his life and career even if you (like me) know virtually nothing about his music.  I vaguely recall playing a couple of Pharmacists songs on my old campus radio show but no more.

* Vulture ranks all 213 Beatles songs, which I don’t really understand since I did the definitive ranking of the top 83 five years ago.  Doesn’t everyone take my posts as gospel??  Notable discrepancies between the two lists include No Reply (#74 me, #173 Vulture), Don’t Pass Me By (#31 me, #192 Vulture), Rocky Racoon (#38 me, #168 Vulture), Free As A Bird (#68 me, #206 Vulture) and The Ballad Of John And Yoko (#24 me, #179 Vulture).  Oh, plus there’s the fact that my favourite Beatles song, I’ve Just Seen A Face, clocks in at a mediocre 115th on Vulture’s list.  Infuriatingly, Vulture puts my favourite one spot below the melodic eyesore (earsore?) that was Revolution 9.  None of my top six songs even crack their top 35.  Why am I even highlighting this link?

* Vulture redeems itself with Boris Kachka’s look at the filming and creation of the Leftovers’ series finale, one of the greatest episodes within one of the greatest seasons of television ever made. 

* And just in case you think that’s it for the Leftovers material, you’re wrong!  I haven’t been able to get this show out of my mind for weeks, and probably never will, so these pieces from Alan Sepinwall still seem timeless.  Sepinwall, one of the show’s biggest critical champions, had loads of tremendous coverage ready to go immediately after the finale, including a great encapsulation of the episode itself, an interview with Carrie Coon, The Best Actress On Television (as is her legal name at this point) as well as an interview with showrunner Damon Lindelof.  The show ended perfectly, though I won’t lie, Lindelof’s casual mention of an alternate idea about the device being a Guilty Remnant hoax would’ve been pretty amazing.

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 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.


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!