Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Battle Of The Day


Competitors: The elephant in question is an African Bush elephant, male, fully grown, and of moderate temper. Most elephants aren't jerks like Stampy, but let's say that this particular elephant has been given particular incentive to win this fight. A DVD of "Operation Dumbo Drop" signed by Danny Glover, for instance.

Sharon, Lois & Bram have themselves to rely on. Not even Eric Nagler can provide assistance. It should be noted that Lois sadly passed away a few years ago, so let's establish that this is the Sharon, Lois & Bram of their prime years. Let's say, from 1985. I believe that 1985 was also the year I saw them perform at Alumni Hall. I don't remember much about the concert since I was three years old, but I assume there was a 15-minute "Freebird" cover.

Battleground: An empty hockey arena. Let's say, the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, home of the Blues!

Prep: As per the rules of engagement, the consensus underdogs (Sharon, Lois & Bram) get a day of preparation time to formulate a strategy. This prep time does not allow for the acquisition of weapons, bombs or any type of outside device that can be used to influence the decision. This is bad luck for Sharon, Lois & Bram, though they are allowed to bring their guitars into the battle since, c'mon, SL&B are as synonymous with guitars like peanut butter and jam. Despite a lack of conventional weaponry, the trio is allowed to consult with zookeepers, ivory dealers, or whomever they can think of who might have information about how to best an elephant in combat. By the way, these conversations would be awesome and hilarious.

The elephant, as the favourite, gets only an hour of prep time. I predict he will use this time to eat leaves.

Rule No. 1...there are no rules!
Rule No. 2.....Rule No. 1 is a metaphor, of course there are rules. That's the whole point of this section.
Rule No. 3......Victory is achieved by making your opponent submit, knocking them out, or killing them.
Rule No. 4.....You aren't allowed to run away.
Rule No. 5.....No time limit.

Referee: The lead official for this bout will be me. POWER~~~! My only job is to make the ten-count in the case of a knockout.

Match analysis
: The elephant wins. I'm not sure if it will be via knockout, submission or murder, but since there are three opponents, let's be fair and say one of each. Bram is killed when the elephant steps on him. Sharon tries a running spear tackle, but unfortunately has bad form and knocks herself out against the elephant's mighty leg. Lois submits when the elephant catches her in a grounded double-chickenwing with a bridge.

Sharon, Lois & Bram will give a game effort, but I think they're out of their league. I mean, they're facing a freakin' elephant in hand-to-hand combat. A triple guitar-smash against the elephant's leg is their best offensive maneuver, but this would likely only result in the elephant becoming enraged. It's possible they may try to sooth the elephant using their children's pop, but this may also backfire. The "Skinnamarink" hand motion is actually not unlike an elephant's trunk, which may (at best) mildly confuse the elephant, or (at worst) turn him on.

Final verdict: The elephant. It really isn't close.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Hot! Live! Music!

Billy Corgan, "Wrecking Ball"
Technically, it's "William Patrick Corgan," but shyeah right.  It's Billy!  You're Billy, man!  The ship has long since sailed on trying to take a more adult-sounding name, dude.  Anyway, this is one of the rare Corgan/Smashing Pumpkins covers that doesn't sound like garbage since the song actually somewhat fits Corgan's....unusual, let's go with unusual....voice.  It actually sounds awesome, and actually a lot like a real Pumpkins song.  Couldn't this have fit in perfectly on Adore?

U2, "So Cruel"
U2 only played this one in concert a handful of times, and I believe this is a version from a soundcheck, not an actual official show.  Hard to believe it couldn't have gotten any more play, even without the stacked Zoo TV setlist, since this rendition sounds gorgeous.

LL Cool J, "Mama Said Knock You Out"
The remaining H!L!M! entries all stem from this Ringer article about the legacy of MTV Unplugged, and you can't really go wrong with any of the links from that piece.  (Except the Nirvana stuff.  Never forget that Nirvana is the most overrated band this side of the Doors.)  This performance of "Mama Said Knock You Out," for instance, is absolute pure gold.  There is a full generation that doesn't even remember LL used to be a rapper, and a terrific rapper at that.

10,000 Maniacs, "Because The Night"
There are so many amazing songs in rock history hat became huge hits for one artist despite being literally tossed away others.  Bruce Springsteen reportedly considered this to be just a middling love song and didn't bother properly recording it back in 1978.  Jimmy Iovine, who was producing Bruce's album, also happened to be working on Patti Smith's new album at the same time, in the same studio, and Iovine knew enough to not throw away a gem of a track.  He brings it over to Patti, she rewrites the lyrics, and boom, it's one of her biggest hits.  This is one of the great "wait, WHO wrote this?" songs in music history.

Maxwell, "This Woman's Work"

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Guess Your Age

Rafa Nadal at the French Open, the Undertaker at a Wrestlemania, Homer Simpson against every doughnut in the world....none are as unstoppable as me in one of those "guess your age" games at a carnival.  I have a perfect record.  Some might say, it's beyond perfection --- it's one thing to just win the game, but quite another to leave the guesser a broken shell of a man, questioning his very aptitude and wondering if his entire life is a lie.

In case you're wondering, yes, I do mean those simple games where a carnie has to guess your age (usually within a range of 1-2 years), your weight (maybe between 20 pounds) or your birthday (within a month) and if they guess isn't correct, you win a prize.  I don't bother with the weight or birthday contests, that's just pure guesswork.

"Actually Mark, in your case, guessing the size of your fat ass is..."

Shut up!  To continue, guessing an age is theoretically the easiest of the three, which is where my genius comes in.  You see, ever since I was young, I've looked old.  Going bald at age 17 helped but even before then, I just have always looked pretty old for my age.  It helped that I was a tall kid growing up, though my height annoying ceased just as I hit my teenage years.  It was frustrating -- I was a back row/middle kid for grade school class photos and I was thinking I was going to be 6'4" or something, but then I just stopped at stupid old average height.

What wasn't average, however, was my grizzled look.  Maybe it's a sign of my inward maturity leaking out of me like a cheap faucet, but whatever, my looks have allowed me to run roughshod over guess-your-age games with the easy dominance of a young Tiger Woods playing putter golf. 

Not only am I unbeaten in these games, I have a record of breaking the guesser's self-professed personal records for incorrectness.  For example...

* when I was 14, the guess was 23
* when I was 28, the guess was 41
* when I was 31, the guess was 40
* when I was 35, the guess was 41....ok, I may actually be catching up to my facial age.  Does this mean I'll now start looking like a 'young' old man?  Is this some kind of odd Benjamin Button-ish condition?  That movie was terrible.

The guessed-41-when-I-was-28 guy literally didn't believe it.  He'd "never been so off before" and actually wondered if I had a fake ID specifically made up just to fool the game.  I mean, I guess I could've, but that seems like a long way to go to win a $5 stuffed animal at a carnival.  I'm not sure of the expense involved in making a fake ID but surely it'd cost more than five bucks...it just wouldn't be a good use of financial resources.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What A Waste

The Seahawks have no offense.  The Falcons seem pathologically incapable of holding a lead.  The Eagles (*checks records*) play in the city of Philadelphia, so they're under a sports curse.  The Cowboys seem to have used up every bit of luck they had in the 2016 season and now nothing is going right for them this year.  The Rams are the Rams.  The Lions are the Lions.  The Vikings are the Vikings.

In short, things were wide open for the Packers to finally make it back to the Super Bowl.  And, really, a win wasn't out of the question, given that the AFC's top teams are also full of questions in this weird parity-driven season.  Green Bay wasn't a perfect team by any stretch but they had the ace of spades himself, the P-Wing, the legend known as Aaron Rodgers.

Except now, Rodgers is likely out for the season due to a broken collarbone Green Bay is certainly done.  Oh, make no mistake, I would like nothing more than to see Brett Hundley inexplicably turn out to be awesome and Brady his way off the bench to lead the Pack the rest of the way.  The idea of The Packers somehow getting THREE fantastic quarterbacks all in a row over a 25+ year period would just be amazing, in no small part because it would absolutely infuriate their rivals.

Realistically, however, Hundley will struggle because a) he's basically a rookie QB despite this being his third season, b) the rest of the Packers team simply isn't very good.  Having an A+ quarterback papers over a lot of flaws, but without Rodgers as the rising tide, the several mediocre boats on the Green Bay roster have nowhere to sail.  Does Hundley have the ability to quickly make plays before the blah offensive line inevitably breaks down?  Can Aaron Jones keep up his eye-opening start now that defenses will be paying attention to him and not the QB?  Does Mike McCarthy have the coaching acumen to adjust to....well, we know the answer to that question already.  /deep sigh

It all adds up to another wasted season in Green Bay.  Rodgers turns 34 in December and the team really needs to start putting the pedal to the metal in terms of putting a deep roster around him before an inevitable decline sets in.  Even accounting for Rodgers being a freak of nature, the Packers have at most five seasons left with him at QB, and it would be a legitimate shame if they somehow ended the Rodgers era with just a single Super Bowl victory.  Too many years have already been thrown away thanks to injuries, McCarthy's incompetence, and terrible playoff losses. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Thank You, Gord

Reprinted from May 2016....


It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, both wet and humid enough to irritate the hundreds/thousand-plus people in attendance at the 2014 Field Trip festival since there is precious little tree cover at Fort York.  As much romance as there is in the idea of musical festivals being a muddy nirvana, you never want to actually experience it.  Still, the conditions didn't matter, since the main stage featured none other than the Sadies (a pretty big name in their own right) and Gord Downie, fronting the band for a tour to promote an album collaboration.

The cool thing about solo or side projects for members of major bands is that it usually makes them more accessible.  The Tragically Hip, of course, are probably too big for Field Trip; while they're a pretty old-school touring band that doesn't put on airs, their tours are more apt to take them to the ACC or Downsview whenever they're through Toronto.  (Realistically, the Hip could likely sell out a one-off Rogers Centre show if they wished.)  Downie the solo artist, however, was right there in the muck and the mire of Field Trip with all the other acts on the bill, like he was just another up-and-comer act or mid-tier career musician getting a gig in a fairly anonymous spot on the bill.

The great thing about Downie is that his casual performing style fits right into a laid-back festival atmosphere, yet it was also pretty apparent that he was a major cut above anyone else present.  Some frontmen just have "it."  His showmanship and charisma was off the charts.  Gord's main move that day seemed to be kind of mock rock star moves, like faux-Elvis hip swivels or pointing and smiling at literally everyone within his eye line.  He was both taking it easy and blowing everyone away; even 80% Downie was stealing the show.  I'm unfamiliar with the Sadies' music (both their old stuff and the album being promoted) yet maybe that's the best sign that a live act is really on fire.  It's one thing to win a crowd when it's diehards who know all your standards, yet quite another to win a crowd that's probably mostly comprised of casuals or non-fans like me.

I've never had the pleasure of seeing the Hip live when Downie is at full power, though of course, that may be in question given that Downie is fighting terminal brain cancer.  I have little doubt that Downie wouldn't be planning concerts with the Hip this summer if he didn't think he could perform at full strength, and this is unquestionably going to be an absolute emotional roller-coaster of a tour.  Like virtually every Canadian of my generation, the Hip have been a major part of my musical life.  Downie is widely cited as possibly the best frontman and lyricist in Canadian music history, though I'd go one step further and rank him against the best from any country.  If you have a chance to see the Hip in concert one more time, take that opportunity to experience the best at his best.   

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Random Nonsense

Happy Sudden Departure Day!  (Well, not ‘happy’ if you’re Nora Durst.)


I often post whenever a favourite band of mine releases a new single, though you may notice I didn’t do so when the Killers unleashed “The Man” upon the world.  No big mystery why — it’s a pretty weak song.  Sadly, the rest of their Wonderful Wonderful album is similarly uninteresting.  It’d need to give it a couple more listens to give a truly fair assessment, but for now, I’m not sure there’s even a single track that could track the Killers’ top thirty-seven. 

Unfortunately, the Killers seem to be abandoning their pop hook-laden style in favour of more soundscape-ish type stuff.  “The Man” is the only song on the record with a big fat hook, though since that hook is missing sharpness, perhaps that’s a sign that the band doesn’t have their classic sound in them anymore.  There was a five-year hiatus between albums, so it’s also possible that the Killers as a whole don’t have much oomph as a creative collaboration anymore.  This sounds a bit grim to say that a band is washed up, though given that the Killers’ entire vibe has been “sounds like a semi-washed up lounge band in a mostly-empty Vegas saloon, except they play keyboard rock,” it could be a fitting end?


Imagine going on the Oregon Trail and dying of something other than dysentery.  What a waste.


Since Kumail Nanjiani is hosting SNL this weekend, it seems appropriate to feature his recent “Clueless Gamer” appearance on Conan.  I’ve got to disagree with Conan on this one — the character should have Kumail’s voice.  If you’re going to the trouble to cast a well-known actor to do comedic voice work, it only makes sense to use his actual voice, right?


Two recent SNL observations….

* the papyrus font sketch was nothing special.  Not sure why the internet suddenly fell in love with it

* new cast member Heidi Gardner hasn’t really had a breakout yet (fair enough, it’s only been two episodes) but she did have a weirdly good acting moment.  To recap: the sketch was a spoof of daytime talk shows, with Heidi playing an angry teen, Aidy Bryant playing her distraught mother and Kenan “Fifteen Seasons!” Thompson playing the so-called drill sergeant type of character often see in such shows, brought on to straighten the teen out with some boot camp discipline.  The punch line is that he mentions something about being her daddy, and Heidi and Aidy then wholeheartedly embrace this as a legitimate offer to become the father. 

Pretty thin last-sketch-of-the-night premise, whatever, yet it did contain Heidi’s character talking about how she could now tell people “that’s my dad!”  It was said with such pride in her voice that it added a minor tragic twist to this goofy sketch, as this white-trash character was so desperate for a father figure in her life and she was inevitably going to be let down again when (or if?) this situation was eventually sorted out.  In short, when Heidi Gardner wins an Oscar in 15 years, don’t be surprised.


I’m not going to see The Snowman since it looks either very silly or very generic, so my theory is that the killer is actually a woman.  See, the twist here is that the name is both a reference to their snow-themed killings and the gender.  As in, not pronounced “Snowman” but removing the ‘it’ from “it’s no man.”

Man, I should write horror movies.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Pwnage, Renaissance-Style

Few figures in history have been as hilariously and thoroughly humiliated for all time as Biagio da Cesena, who served as Papal Master Of Ceremonies under four Popes in the 16th century.

A late-night dive down the Wikipedia hole led me to an exploration of classic artwork, and Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement.  This led to my discovery of Biagio Martinelli, the pride (or shame, as it turned out?) of Cesena, whose own Wiki page consists largely of this anecdote.  Imagine having one’s life summed up in so inglorious a fashion…

“After the completion of The Last Judgment da Cesena said of the fresco, "it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully". Da Cesena went on to say the painting was more suitable "for the public baths and taverns" than a Papal chapel. In response, Michelangelo worked Cesena's face into the scene as Minos, judge of the underworld (far bottom-right corner of the painting) with donkey ears (i.e. indicating foolishness), while his nudity is covered by a coiled snake. It was widely said that when Cesena complained to the Pope, the pontiff joked that his jurisdiction did not extend to hell and the portrait would have to remain.”

The Pope in question was Paul III, by the way.  For someone who didn’t have any say in the fiery pits of hell, Paul III sure knew a thing or two about sick burns.  Still, Paul III couldn’t compare to the all-time funniest Pope, who tops the humour rankings on name alone.

I feel like countless prudish, unctuous and stuck-up characters in literary history — everyone from Red Dwarf’s Arnold Rimmer to Shakespeare’s Malvolio — owe a debt to Biagio da Cesena as their true-life inspiration for perfect comeuppance.  The moral of the story is, don’t mess with Michelangelo.  In fact, the creators of the Ninja Turtles should’ve named Vernon Fenwick (April O’Neil’s obnoxious reporter co-worker) something like “Vernon Biagio” or something as a shoutout to someone else that was often made to look silly by a Michelangelo. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Meet Your Second Wife

When it comes to YouTube, SNL only makes some sketches available to international viewers a couple of years after airing.  So now, I am finally able to post the single funniest sketch of the 2015-16 season and one of the funnier sketches of recent memory.  This was absolutely savage, big belly laughs on virtually every line...in fact, it's unfortunate that the title is right there in the video (and atop my post!) since the reveal of the game show's name is one of the very best moments.  It gets even funnier if you imagine Will Arnett just sinking into a couch in a full-body cringe while watching.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Drunken Master

I recently watched ‘Drunken Master’ and have some thoughts….

* The next time I’m in a “best athlete ever” debate, I’m going to mention Jackie Chan.  I don’t actually believe this (the best athlete ever is Andre “Red Light” Racicot), but man, Chan in his prime was just unreal.  I’d only seen middle-aged Jackie Chan from his North American movies,  so I couldn’t have been more impressed at seeing Vintage Jackie for the first time.

* Do you like action scenes?  There are at least 20 kung fu fights over a 90-minute runtime!  Look no further than Drunken Master for your action movie needs!

* Do you like live-action cartoons?  That’s basically the movie, given Jackie’s comedic fighting style.  At one point he actually farts in an opponent’s face, then tosses him face-first into a pile of feces that just happens to be nearby.  Imagine a violent Adam Sandler…or, wait, I remember the Bob Barker incident.  Okay, a MORE violent Adam Sandler.

* But Jackie is no Bugs Bunny omnipotent type.  He spends a good half of the movie getting thoroughly beaten up and humiliated by any number of opponents, including a) his own aunt, b) the drunken master himself and c) a gang of, I guess, really aggressive waiters and bouncers at a local restaurant?  Some explanation on the latter…Chan tries to scheme his way out of paying for a meal, which leads to at least a half-dozen guys trying to beat him down.  They win via sheer numbers, and punish Jackie by repeatedly punching him in the stomach to make him vomit up the food he stole.  Good lord!  On a related note, this is also how they deal with shoplifters at Arby’s.  The best part is that Jackie is trying to skip out of a meal that costs a grand total of $1.05.  I’m shocked the restaurant owner can afford to hire so many goons with such rock-bottom prices.

* The plot, as it were, is that Jackie is a cocky young martial artist and the son of a great kung fu master.  Despite his skills, Jackie is definitely in need of some humbling, so his father arranges for him to be taught by an eccentric old-timer who is an expert in the art of “drunken fighting,” which is essentially just trying to be as unpredictable and seemingly off-balance as possible (as if you’re drunk) so your opponent can’t predict your next move.  Spoiler alert — things work out for the best for Jackie, though if the father wanted his son to learn truly advanced kung fu from a master, why not just send Jackie to his aunt?  She seems to be at least tied for first place in the ‘biggest badass in the movie’ standings.  Jackie does eventually win the final fight by adopting a so-called “feminine” style, so maybe that’s a nod to Auntie Wong’s mastery.

* In classic Spider-Man fashion, the main villain (Thunderleg) bests Jackie easily in their first meeting.  Jackie is drying his pants off over a fire when they first encounter each other, and after Thunderleg wins the fight, he adds insult to injury by burning Jackie’s pants up in the flames.  Jackie Chan recently received an honorary Oscar for his incredible contributions to international cinema, though I’d argue he should’ve received an actual Oscar for his emotional response to watching his pants get burned.  Who won Best Actor in 1978, Jon Voight?  Please.  Sure, Voight had to capture the physical and emotional pain of a Vietnam veteran, but does that compare to the torment of watching one’s own pants burned in front of one?!  I think not!    

* Thunderleg is the big bad, though there is a very notable minor villain with the name of “Rat, the Iron-Headed Bullet.”  This fellow’s big move is to just lower his (admittedly hard) head and run at people.  It’s a pretty great gimmick for a ‘little bad,’ sort of like how every opponent in Punch-Out has a specific strength that you have to stay away from. 

* I figure this was due to some creative dubbing rather than the original screenplay, but there are some A+ insults in the dialogue.  After the soaking-wet Jackie sasses Thunderleg, the villain responds with “a big mouth on a wet ass.”  I mean, Jackie is indeed drenched and his character is indeed a big-mouth….but geez, Thunderleg, that’s a Tobias Bluth-level example of trash talk.  Later in the film, after Thunderleg insults Jackie’s father, Jackie retorts with “You watch out, or you’ll have a body with no ass.”  Good lord, what kind of martial art is so destructive that it can somehow remove someone’s hindquarters and yet still leave the body functioning?  Or, was Jackie’s point that he’d ‘remove’ the ass in the sense of sticking something where the sun don’t shine?  So many unanswered questions, I may need to watch Drunken Master 2.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

NHL/NBA Predictions

A new hockey season is upon us, and for the first time in well over a decade, I have expectations.  Could the Maple Leafs actually take another step forward this year, or am I (and Leafs Nation as a whole) setting ourselves up for disappointment?  This is still a young and ostensibly rebuilding team, don't forget.  A step backwards wouldn't be a shock.  To their credit, the Leafs front office didn't go nuts with "win now" signings or anything, since Patrick Marleau isn't exactly the last piece of the puzzle at his advanced age of *checks Wikipedia* 72 years old.

My predictions!

East: Penguins, Capitals, Rangers, Blue Jackets......Canadiens, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Panthers
West: Stars, Predators, Blackhawks, Jets, Wild.....Ducks, Oilers, Sharks

Stanley Cup Finals: Ducks over Rangers


While I'm here, let's get the NBA picks out of the way as well, unless some other major superstars switches teams in the next month.  Also, because it's pretty obvious that Golden State is going to win the title again.

East Conference: Celtics, Wizards, Cavaliers, Bucks, Raptors, Heat, Hawks, Pistons
West Conference: Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Clippers, Nuggets, Timberwolves

NBA Finals: Warriors over Celtics