Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Blackout

After months of rumours and (reportedly) some cold feet at this time a year ago, U2's new album is finally coming our way within the next few months.  The band is taking the unique-for-them step of seemingly debuting multiple songs in advance.  We already had "The Little Things That Give You Away" performed live in concert this summer, we have the official first single "The Best Thing" next week and for now we have "The Blackout," available via U2's Facebook page.

It's an interesting melange of Magnificent/Crystal Ballroom/Zoo Station with maybe a drip of The Fly and a smidge of Wire.  The other interesting detail is that...I don't love it?  It's a good song, the chorus is catchy and potentially a grower, though I didn't get the instant wow factor that I get listening to most U2 songs.

What is promising, however, is the overall sound.  There's definitely a polished modern dance/rock sheen of production over the tune, though it is very much a rock song.  The rhythm section is just pounding away (great bass song for Adam Clayton) and the Edge has a bit of the ol' chainsaw guitar sound from Zoo Station working here.  My guess is that Songs Of Experience will be another mixture of U2's different sides rather than a unified sound, though it's good to see the band delving into a big rock sound for at least one track.

There is a 100% chance this will be the opening track on next year's tour, complete with the house lights dropping halfway through the song, a la Elevation during the Elevation Tour.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Conan & Sona

The greatest comedy team of our generation?

Friday, August 25, 2017

SCTV Cast Power Rankings

Doesn't get much more Canadian than this!

11. Harold Ramis
10. Tony Rosato
9. Robin Duke
8. Dave Thomas
7. Andrea Martin
6. Joe Flaherty
5. Catherine O’Hara
4. Martin Short
3. Rick Moranis
2. John Candy
1. Eugene Levy

First things first, this is probably the best cast in television history.  It seem a little unfair to include a sketch comedy show in this distinction since it had the ability to add and subtract people over the years, but top to bottom, it is awfully hard to beat SCTV.  Even compared to other sketch comedy shows, you can’t really argue SNL has a ‘better’ cast since while it has SCTV beat in sheer numbers, it’s also hurt by a lot of dead weight amongst its 145 cast members.

SCTV, on the other hand, is only a hair away from all killer no filler.  Rosato was more solid than great, and Ramis (while a genius writer) was pretty limited as far as acting range.  But man, if a good comic actor like Rosato is your TENTH-BEST performer, you’re in pretty amazing shape.  And consider that even by the #8 spot, you’re already in the borderline legend territory with Dave Thomas. 

As for the top five, you can almost list them in any order and I wouldn’t complain.  Levy gets my top spot on total versatility, able to play both a straight man and a clown with equal aplomb.  Of course, all of the actors were quite good at this (another reason this cast rules) but Levy was maybe the only A+ in both categories, in my humble opinion.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Kyrie Irving

The Kyrie Irving trade makes so little sense to me for two main reasons…

a) the fact that a player seems to regard being LeBron James’ Scottie Pippen for three years to be a burden
b) the fact that such a major trade was swung between two arch-rival teams at the top of the Eastern Conference

Let’s start with B, since I guess Boston’s much-ballyhooed amount of draft picks and roster assets was enough to entice anyone, even a Cleveland team that is in direct competition with them for a ticket to the Finals.  I can definitely see a scenario where both teams feel they took the other for a ride — on paper, the Cavaliers got a much larger array of talent and a top pick in the 2018 draft, and Isaiah Thomas may be just as good as Kyrie was.  From the Celtics’ perspective, they unloaded a tiny point guard with hip problems, some good but not irreplaceable players and one of only many major draft picks in their stockpile for one of the NBA’s ten best players.  The Celtics have had a great core the last couple of years but are missing that elusive elite player that every NBA champion besides the 2003 Pistons had possessed.  Now, in Irving, they think they have that guy, and he already had a ring and he’s four years younger than Thomas.

From Irving’s perspective, I guess I can see his point? Sort of?  James can’t be the easiest teammate in the world to play alongside since, for all intents and purposes, he’s your GM and not really a teammate.  The modus operandi for the last three-plus years of Cavaliers basketball has been to find pieces that complement LeBron; Irving, as important as he was to the Cavs prior to The Second Decision, was also another one of those expendable parts.  No matter what Kyrie did, he was always potentially a candidate to be sent out the door if the Cavaliers could’ve found a LeBron-preferred upgrade.  Irving may feel that he’s got his ring, and now the rest of his career is gravy, so he wants to be The Man for a team.

This being said…I mean, talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.  Kyrie didn’t lead Cleveland to as much as a playoff berth until LeBron showed up.  If James had never decided to return to his home state, Irving’s tune might’ve been totally different.  He could still have been asking for a trade this summer, except now it would’ve been “deal me to be a cog in a superteam, I’m tired of being The Man on a losing franchise, I just want to win.”  Kyrie has reportedly been envious about how point guard peers like Damian Lillard and John Wall have gotten the chance to be franchise guys on “their own” teams.  This would be the Trail Blazers and Wizards, btw, two teams that haven’t gotten beyond the second round whereas Kyrie is a three-time NBA finalist.  To put the shoe on the other foot, you don’t think Lillard or Wall would’ve traded the last three years for a chance to play with LeBron and get a chance at a ring every year?

It’s a fascinating trade, made all the most layered by the fact that it’s an open secret LeBron is leaving for the Lakers after the coming season.  I have no idea who’s going to win the Eastern Conference next year, aside from the fact that…it’ll be one of these two teams.  And then the Warriors will beat them in the Finals.  Okay, so maybe this trade doesn’t really change the predictable NBA landscape all *that* much.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Jennifer, Me, & Jennifer

What’s the old saying, everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten?

Five-year-old Mark was at school, playing house with Jennifer V and Jennifer W.  (If you’re from my generation, you went to school with at least a dozen Jennifers.)  Now, admittedly, five-year-old Mark was pretty old-fashioned when it came to gender norms, so I went into the game under the assumption that one of the Jenns and I would be the parents, and the other Jenn would be our daughter.  I mentioned as much to the girls, only to get this response:

“No, we’re sisters and you’re our brother.  We’re all living alone since our parents aren’t here.”

I mean…damn.  That’s bleak.  Forget the personal ego blow of these girls preferring to pretend we’re living some traumatic Party Of Five-esque scenario than just pretend one of them is married to me.  But man, suddenly this game of house takes on a whole deeper, more primal meaning.  Suddenly it’s not just “oh, put the kettle on to make some tea,” it’s now “teatime is a cultural norm that we can fall back on in an effort to normalize life in the wake of our parents’ sudden disappearance.” 

Note that they we’re all LIVING alone, not just that we “are” alone or a less-definitive phrasing that might imply our parents are running late getting home from work or something.  No, we three kids have been habituating within this grim, orphaned existence for a while now.  Just me, Jennifer W and Jennifer V against the world.

Who would’ve thought that Red Rover, a game that so often devolved into clotheslining other children, would somehow be the less-traumatic of common kindergarten activities?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Steep Canyon Rangers, "Caroline"

"Hey, check out this cool new Steve Martin music video" isn't something I expected to be writing in 2017.  Hell, even "hey, check out this cool new music video" sounds dated.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: I’m starring in a CBS crime show along the lines of Hawaii 5-0 or Scorpion, about a tough cop keeping New Orleans safe from organized crime.  I’m not playing the cop, however — that’s some generic Josh Duhamel type of actor.  No, my role is playing the villain, a New Orleans crime boss known as “Largesse.”  My character is, essentially, Big Daddy from that Simpsons episode where Wiggum and Skinner become detectives in New Orleans, with a dash of the Kingpin and a dash of this other Simpsons character.  Okay, the added “dashes” are basically just physical appearance since I’m a fat bald guy, but stay with me here.

There’s also more than a bit of Boss Hogg in my character, as I play Largesse wayyyyyyy over the top.  Like, the actor who played Boss Hogg would’ve seen this show and thought “geez, that’s a little broad.”  I guess it’s not a strict CBS procedural since it really is more along the likes of Dukes Of Hazzard, with a recurring villain every week whose plans are foiled by the hero.  Weirdly, I play Largesse as never being all that annoyed by the constant failures of my criminal enterprises, and much more annoyed whenever someone serves him seafood for dinner.  Disliking seafood, naturally, particularly enrages the Duhamel-ian cop, who is a proud New Orleans native (New Orleaner?) and therefore adores the local cuisine.

The show seems generally popular, though the dream is weirdly non-specific about whether it’s a fictional scripted program or somehow a documentary.  Like, it’s an actor playing the cop and I’m profiled on Entertainment Tonight for my role as Largesse, though there are never any cameras or scripts around.  Also, the ET segment leads to a minor scandal since fans are outraged that I’m not actually from Louisiana, unlike Largesse.

ANALYSIS: I won’t like, it would be fun to just eat all the time, wear outrageous clothing and talk in a comically-broad New Orleans accent.  I basically do 1.5 of these things in my everyday life anyways.  The whole crime boss thing doesn’t really interest me, which perhaps is why my subconscious omitted the actual “crimes” part of being a gangster and why Largesse was never too bothered when Officer Generic stopped a scheme.  I actually don’t care for seafood either, and were I to be served seafood unasked, I’d indeed have an issue with it.  Largesse, at one point, is so irate that he knocks a waiter’s platter to the ground upon being brought a bunch of scallops….for the record, I’d never act so insultingly boorish.  I’d just say “sorry, I didn’t order any scallops.”  Simple common courtesy, Largesse!

I’d like to think of myself as a decent actor.  I performed in some minor shows in high school and university, with things going pretty well.  The jury is still out on whether I was actually talented or just “talented enough for some low-level student production,” but let’s just say that my real drawback was having some difficulty memorizing so many lines.  I can’t imagine how professional theatre actors are able to learn hundreds or even thousands of lines of dialogue in what is sometimes a short amount of time.  Perhaps that’s what I gravitated more towards improv, where I could always just wing it if I didn’t know what to say.  Also, my acting career may have also been stunted by my, uh, difficulties in auditioning.

"Largesse" is a pretty awesome name for a big, fat, extravagant bayou crime boss.  Good job with the branding, subconscious!

I’ve never been to New Orleans, nor do I have any particular desire to visit unless the Super Bowl is at the Superdome one year and the Packers happen to be playing.  Nothing against the city, really, just that I’m wary about going anywhere too far south since I don’t like the heat.  If I actually had to spend time in New Orleans, forget about Big Daddy, I’d end up like another shady Simpsons character. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Work Nonsense

My co-worker Ken and I were discussing movies, I mentioned some star, and Ken joked “I don’t know who that is, I only watch movies starring Glenn Close.”  To which I responded, “don’t be so Close-minded, Ken!”  Ken no-sold the joke, but come on, that’s some pretty great spur-of-the-moment punnery.


I’m just about the world’s most boring eater, which includes eating pasta with no sauce, oil or seasonings of any kind.  (Ok, some salt and pepper, but those are so basic that I don’t even consider it ‘seasoning.’)  Ken was a little incredulous, though I did assure him that I had SOME flavour in the form of that packaged cheese from Kraft Dinner boxes. 

K: But if you use the cheese for both KD and for normal pasta, don’t you run out of cheese pretty quickly?
M: Oh no, I have so much KD in the cupboard that there’s always at least one expired box in there.  So I just take the cheese from that and use it for pasta.
K: Wait a second, but the cheese is ALSO expired.  In fact, it’s the only thing expired due to the milk-based ingredient.  So you’re throwing out ‘expired’ KD noodles that are still probably good and keeping the actually expired cheese product.
M: ….oh yeah…..

And then we laughed for about a minute straight.  I am not a smart man.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Baroness Von Sketch Show, Uh, Sketches

I've fallen down the rabbit hole of watching material from "Baroness Von Sketch Show," a Canadian comedy show that absolutely hits my sweet spot of dry, goofy, slice-of-life observational humour.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Definition Of Comedy Is...

A 20-something dudebro who looks like a young Scott Caan strolls out of a No Frills, casually tossing a watermelon to himself in the air. He stumbles and drops the melon on the ground, smashing it to pieces. The dudebro proceeds to throw what I can only describe as a tantrum -- he tosses his hands in the air, actually stamps his feet on the ground and stamps his feet in a frustrated little pivot of a move.

I'm not saying this was one of the top ten hardest laughs of my life, but top 20? The jury is out.