Thursday, November 30, 2017

Karen Page, Ace Reporter

Forget the aliens, the superheroes, or the magic....the most unrealistic thing in the Marvel TV universe is Karen Page's entire journalism career.  Here's the brief summary of her arc, over the two Daredevil seasons, the Defenders season, and the first season of The Punisher (spoilers ahead).

* is helping Ben Urich, veteran reporter for the New York Bulletin, expose the Kingpin's corruption.  This leads to Urich being murdered by the Kingpin.

* Karen shows up at the Bulletin offices in connection with the Punisher's defense, and the editor (who I'll just refer to as Poor Man's Richard Schiff) lets her check out some archival material, out of sympathy for her friendship with Urich.

* Karen uncovers this entire conspiracy related to Punisher's military background, leading to some patronizing "work the story" scenes between she and Poor Man's Richard Schiff as he decides to just let her write this big expose.  It occurs to me at this point that PMRS never made any promises about actually publishing it, so he could've just walked away entirely had this virtual stranger delivered an explosive and potentially libelous story that would've gotten the Bulletin shut down.  Still, the fact that PMRS allows Karen seemingly free reign to work in the Bulletin's bullpen (even to the point of letting her use Urich's giant and somehow-still-unoccupied old office) still seems far-fetched.  In just about every newspaper office I've ever been in, from top papers to student journalism, the only people with actual private offices are the editors --- certainly not reporters, and certainly not amateurs that literally just walked in off the street.

* Anyway, Karen ends up publishing her big profile of Frank Castle and the conspiracy surrounding his actions, and it earns her a job at the Bulletin.  Again, I can't tell you how many hoops the paper would have to jump through to fact-check and properly confirm a story like this, given the content and the fact that Castle is basically the most wanted man in New York at this point.  The best reporter in the world could've submitted this thing and it would've taken weeks or even months before it ran.  That's just how the business works.  It's not a, "wow, you've got some chops, kid, you're instantly our top reporter!" situation here.

Oh, plus there's also the small situation that Karen was one of Castle's defense attorneys.  You would've thought that would've been a giant red flag in and of itself to PMRS.  Even if Karen comes to the paper with (valid) information about Castle being set up, you assign an actual reporter to work with her, not just let her write it herself.

* Karen also gets to keep Urich's old office.  This may seem like a minor thing I'm harping about, but anyone who has worked in an office environment knows that giving 'the big office' to a total newcomer would raise untold hell.

* And then in the Defenders and Punisher series, Karen is just a straight-up reporter now, cracking big stories on the reg.  Now, it's not like I have a journalism degree myself; in fact, maybe only half the journalists I know have actual degrees in the field.  Even still, for actual newspaper employees, there's a natural learning curve where a new reporter would have to prove themselves capable of delivering bigger assignments.  For a random freelancer, there's even more of a seasoning period as the paper has to essentially research and fact-check the freelancer as much as they research and fact-check their story (again, this is where Karen being's Castle's lawyer should've shut the whole thing down from step one).

It sounds ridiculous when spelled out like this, though there is an actual scene in the Punisher series where Agent Madani meets with Karen and says something like, "you've been through a lot since you came to New York," and then relates all of the crazy stuff that the character has been through in, like, three years' time.  It was almost a fourth-wall breaking moment, really, when you break down just how unrealistic everything is that happens to all of these characters, not just Karen.

To be clear, I like Deborah Ann Woll as an actress quite a bit, and she goes a very good job of elevating her character into an actual person, despite all of the eyebrow-raising details of Karen Page's arc.  But as a journalist, I must raise some objections!  Sure, the blind uber-athlete with radar senses, the ninjas, the super-strong detective, the guy with steel-hard skin, the billionaire ninja with the energy punch.....that I can buy.  But a far-fetched portrayal of a reporter getting a job?  Now you've gone too far, Marvel!  What, are we do believe this is some kind of magic xylophone?!

Also, a newspaper that's actually hiring?  Hmmm....

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sesame Things

It's a shame that Bert wasn't in this sketch, though I guess he's busy on the actual show as Mike & Nancy's father.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Fun Facts!

* Poetry was known as 'verse' until the 1850's, when the genre became known as poems/poetry due to Edgar Allen Poe's popularity.

* John Candy played two seasons as a backup offensive lineman for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 1970's.

* Julianne Moore and Jeff Daniels used to be married to each other.

* Coca-Cola claimed it "accidentally" included its famous secret recipe as part of a print advertisement that ran in a four-year-old edition of National Geographic.  This led to a mad rush for back copies of NG issues from that year before Coke revealed it was all an April Fool's joke.  The National Geographic Society is actually owned by the Coca-Cola corporation, so there also may have been a bit of a financial motive to spur interest in National Geographic's back catalogue.

* Johnny Carson's prized automobile was a 1955 Cadillac that had 'Car-nak' as the vanity license plate.

* Andy Warhol was originally commissioned to design a cover for the Beatles' "White Album," but dropped off the project after a falling-out with John Lennon.

* Winona Ryder owns a large collection of vintage typewriters.

* Donatello, while a world-renowned sculptor, also wrote two operas that have been lost to history.

* Lou Bega actually released four singles titled "Mambo No. 1," "Mambo No. 2," etc. before finally hitting it big with "Mambo No. 5."

* Catherine Keener's grandfather was a former governor of Rhode Island.

* If you go to Google Maps and look for walking directions from Thorold to Queenston, an ad for Laura Secord Chocolates pops up at the bottom of the map.

* George R.R. Martin's middle names are Rickon and Robert, both of which he used as character names in A Song Of Ice And Fire.

* None of these fun facts are actually true.  They sound vaguely plausible though, eh?

Monday, November 20, 2017

American Soul

In honour of Homer Simpson eating sixty-four slices of American cheese, here are 64 comments on American Soul

1. I didn't expect the "Glastonbury" riff to show up in not one (Glastonbury), not two (Volcano) but THREE different songs now.  Will Edge just shoehorn this into a track on every album from here on?  If U2 always been this open to re-using riffs, there's an alternate reality out there where 'Lady With The Spinning Head' --- arguably the band's greatest b-side --- is used as the last rack on Zooropa to wrap up the entire Zoo TV era, as LWTSH combines elements of several Achtung Baby songs, including one of The Fly's main riffs.
2. After hearing five tracks off the record, Songs Of Experience sounds like a great album for Adam Clayton's bass.
3. After hearing five tracks off the record, Songs Of Experience sounds like a great album for the Edge's backup vocals.  His backing melody here is really cool, and his bridge on You're The Best Thing About Me is the highlight of the song.
4. Kendrick Lamar used a snippet from 'American Soul' for a song on his last album, thus giving U2 the all-important "featuring" credit.  This allowed U2 to become the fourth musical act to ever notch a Billboard Top 40 song in each of the last four decades.  The others were Madonna, Michael Jackson and (amusingly) Weird Al Yankovic.  Here's yet another reason Weird Al is long overdue for a Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction.
5. Overall, good track!  The recurrence of the Volcano chorus (or the Glastonbury riff, whatever you want to call it) kind of threw me at first, though I think it's a better fit here.
6. Okay, it was only six slices of American Soul commentary.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

King John (Shakespeare Re-Read #21)

This is an anecdotal example of “King John’s” obscurity within the Shakespeare canon, but in my quest to seek out and purchase copies of the plays I didn’t already own, KJ was the only one that apparently wasn’t available as a stand-alone text.  As in, the copy I bought was packaged together with “Henry VIII” in a solo volume, which I figured was a better bargain than buying a stand-alone edition of Henry VIII.  Shrewd!

Maybe it’s appropriate that the play that so prominently features a bastard is also essentially the bastard stepchild of the history plays.  I’m not entirely sure why this is the case, given KJ’s general quality.  Maybe because it is set a few hundred years earlier than the other nine plays* and lacks the historical connect of the War Of The Roses, KJ is seen as a bit of an odd text out.  Maybe it’s also because, as one author theorized in a text I read, that the two most famous elements of King John’s life aren’t even obliquely referenced in the play.  If you’re a theatregoer in the 1590’s attending a show called “King John” and there isn’t even an oblique reference to either the Magna Carta’s signing or John’s apocryphal feud with Robin Hood**, I can see some disappointment amongst the punters and a lack of enthusiasm about the production.  It’d be like going to see a movie about Ronald Reagan that doesn’t mention his presidency or acting career.

* = it should be noted that I’m not including Edward III as part of this re-read, even though many scholars believe Shakespeare had some part in its writing.  I mean come on, this project is already approaching its seventh year; if any more plays get added to my list, I’ll be here until the 2030s.

** = this play also really could've used a Sir Hiss in the cast

But overall, I enjoyed the play, even if the whole thing sort of peters out by the end.  It’s almost like Shakespeare himself got bored with the idea or was facing a deadline or something — the early acts are dominated by these big, long, elaborate scenes but then the fifth act is just seven short scenes.  They’re really almost vignettes that rather hastily wrap things up, with many important details strangely left off-stage (i.e. the actual poisoning of the King, the deaths of Elinor and Constance an act earlier) and the audience only left with the melodrama of Arthur’s death and the ever-shifting loyalties of the English noblemen.

The real issue might be a shift in tone.  The last half of the play seems to want to “get serious” after Shakespeare has had a lot of fun with political satire in the opening acts.  If that vibe had been kept throughout, KJ might’ve really blossomed; it isn’t hard to see why some modern productions lean hard on the plot’s dark comedy aspect.  The entire sequence of the kings of England and France trying to curry favour with the random citizen representative from Algiers is legitimately hilarious.  The citizen’s whole “we are all loyal to the king of England, obviously…and once you two figure out who that is, we’ve got your back” attitude is Pythonesque in its attitude towards royal authority.  John, the King and Dauphin Of France, and poor little Arthur all act less like contenders for the throne than a series of cranky children being forced into auditions by stage mothers.

Into this mix we get Sir Richard The Bastard, who goes from being an Iago-in-training to becoming the voice of the audience in commenting on the royals’ silliness, though Richard himself is a comic figure due to his own simplicity.  He is initially presented as an upwardly-mobile Littlefinger type who is prepared to leverage his newfound status as best he can, only a) he seems constantly taken aback by everyone else’s political machinations, and b) his only actual plan is just “let’s all go to war, and presumably we’ll win.”  Richard is another character in power that is less national powerbroker than a playground oaf; his repeated “calf’s skin” taunts towards the king of Austria are both a great running gag, and also a sign that Richard isn’t exactly the sharpest wit in the land.  Of course, this also adds to the emptiness of the last two acts, as the audience is then expected to sort of side with Richard throughout the whole Arthur-and-Hubert drama.

There’s enough interesting stuff in the first couple of acts to overall merit a thumbs-up, though I’m sort of hoping that KJ indeed proves itself to be the weakest of the history plays as we enter this ten-play segment of the re-read.  I will be going in historic chronological order of the figures involved, so you’ll probably be able to predict entries #22-30 (though a curveball could be in there somewhere, potentially).  Given my lack of haste in reading and writing these things, the second half of my King John/Henry VIII edition might yet have a long way to go before I can safely place it back into my collection.

“Collection?  Don’t you mean the shelf in your old bedroom in your parents’ house, next to the Calvin & Hobbes books?”



21. Pericles
20. The Taming Of The Shrew
19. Antony & Cleopatra
18. Troilus & Cressida
17. Love’s Labour’s Lost
16. As You Like It
15. Titus Andronicus
14. Much Ado About Nothing
13. King John
12. Timon Of Athens
11. Coriolanus
10. The Two Gentlemen Of Verona
9. The Comedy Of Errors
8. The Winter's Tale
7. A Midsummer Night's Dream
6. Julius Caesar
5. Macbeth
4. Romeo & Juliet
3. Cymbeline
2. Twelfth Night
1. Othello

My New Year's resolution for 2012 was to re-read (and in some cases, read for the first time) all 38 of William Shakespeare's plays.  2012 has long since ended, but still, onward and upward.  And, since in these modern times it's impossible to undertake a personal project without blogging about it, here are a series of reviews/personal observances I'll make about the plays.  Well, 'reviews' is a bit of a stretch.  It's William freakin’ Shakespeare.  What am I going to tell you, "Don't bother reading this one, folks!  What a stinker!  Ol' Mark doesn't like it, so you should definitely believe ME over 400 years of dramatic criticism!"

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ricky Jay

There are few better YouTube holes to fall down than watching a bunch of Ricky Jay routines.  This one almost seems like a bad example since he performs in silence --- Ricky Jay without his stage patter is like peanut butter without jelly.  Still, we came for the sleight of hand, and you'll get the sleight of hand.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Classic

Maybe it was a recent birthday, maybe it was watching Georges St. Pierre win a UFC title, maybe it was because an old high school classmate contacted me on Facebook to ask if any 20th reunion plans were in the offing*, or maybe it was for all these reasons that I've been recently feeling very nostalgic.  So it was in this spirit that my brother's recent purchase of an SNES Classic fired me up like few things in recent memory.

* = apparently I'm "the most connected of anyone" to our former classmates, by which I suppose means I'm friends with the most people?  The fact that I actually keep in regular touch with a dozen people tops is besides the point.  How did I somehow end up at the center of a social nexus?  Can't I pawn reunion organizing duties off on a class president or something?

Or, the hell with the nostalgia talk...does one really need a reason to enjoy such an incredible device?  Twenty classic games!  All on one console!  Gloriously remastered but with nary a pixel touched so we can all enjoy these classic games in their original form.

Now, okay, "classics."  I freely admit that I'd never heard of at least a half-dozen of these games, and hadn't actually played several others.  The ones I had played back in the day were...

* Super Mario World.  My vote for the single greatest game of all time.
* Super Mario Kart.  Another extremely big contender for the gaming GOAT, though most people prefer the N64 version.
* Donkey Kong Country.  Another fantastic Mario-style 'building a world' type of scrolling-screen game, and it just felt right that an iconic character like Donkey Kong finally had his own great franchise to carry.
* Street Fighter II.  I don't want to say I'm unbeatable as E. Honda, but merely *mostly* unbeatable as E. Honda.
* Super Punch-Out.  I didn't play this one nearly as much as the old Punch-Out for the original NES but it's still fun.  Canada gets some representation in the form of Bear Hugger!
* Star Fox.  Okay, so this game was garbage.  Just one man's opinion.  Maybe it was a product of too much hype for all the cutting-edge graphics of the time, but actually playing it back in 1993 was just a gigantic letdown.

So you'll notice that this isn't even a third of what the SNES Classic has to offer.  As a kid, I simply never got into the Zelda, Mega Man, Castlevania, Final Fantasy or Contra series, so these are all new to me.  (I also never played the SNES Kirby games, though I absolutely adored the original Kirby's Dreamland for Game Boy.)  I'm kind of interested in playing them as an adult to see how they stack up now, or if it was just a "you had to be there" thing where if you didn't fall in love with these games as a kid, it just won't be the same.  My brief experimentation with Contra III the other day didn't impress me much --- being touched by ANYTHING, just ONCE kills you?  Seems a bit difficult.

It'll also be hard to try out new games when all my old favourites are right there.  Like, I'm supposed to be interested in Castlevania when Mario World is RIGHT THERE?  Weirdly, I somehow never played Yoshi's Island (the Mario World sequel) either as a kid, so I'll have to check that one out as well. 

You might be asking yourself just what exactly did I play back in the day if I somehow missed all of these other household name-games.  Hey man, when you have Mario World, Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter plus other obsessions like NBA Jam, NHLPA 93, Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball, Mortal Kombat, various Ninja Turtles games, and that one where Spider-Man and the X-Men team up, what more did one need?  I had to go outside every once in a while.  (This is a lie, I also just had regular TV to watch.)

My brother had the SNES Classic for about a week before I showed up to play, and even despite this head start, I am enormously proud of the fact that I beat him in my very first Mario Kart race in over 20 years.  Still got it!  It may be true that he proceeded to beat me in roughly 31 of our next 32 races, but whatever, it's the first one that's really the most important.  Had I not been so keen to play, I really should've just put the console down after that first race and just walked away, dusting my hands triumphantly and refusing to ever play again.  I could've had a lifetime of upper hand, dammit.

Friday, November 03, 2017

UFC 217 Predictions

What’s this?  A good old-fashioned UFC preview?  It’s almost like my favourite fighter is making a big comeback or something!

* Georges St. Pierre over Michael Bisping, decision
So we never totally got a 100% straight answer as to why GSP walked away from the sport four years ago, apart from his just generally seeming burned out both mentally and physically.  Who could blame him, really, given the constant pressures of training and winning, not to mention GSP’s documented worries about head injuries and his disgust at the lack of more thorough drug testing in the UFC.  That hiatus turned into over four years on the shelf, though GSP possibly would’ve been back sooner were it not for a torn ACL and the UFC’s own intent on having this fight on a Madison Square Garden show.  (Or, I’ve always suspected that GSP would’ve made his comeback against Conor McGregor at UFC 200 had McGregor won that first Nate Diaz fight.)

Since St. Pierre never really closed the door on returning, I can’t be too *upset* that he’s back.  But frankly, part of me was cool seeing St. Pierre just go out on top, with his faculties intact and enjoying his post-fighting life.  It would be disappointing if he ultimately decided to come back just to chase another big paycheque or two, though part of me also feels that GSP is a proud enough athlete that he wouldn’t have come back if he didn’t think he could do it.  The guy’s already rich, after all.  While the money’s undoubtedly part of it, I suspect GSP’s prime motivation here is that he legitimately feels he can still compete in the UFC, and surely he can beat Michael freakin’ Bisping, right?

Arguably the worst champion ever, Bisping’s career of controversial wins and the UFC handing him every opportunity finally paid off when he inexplicably knocked out Luke Rockhold in June 2016.  I can’t decide who I hate more…Rockhold for taking it easy, Chris “Mr. Glass” Weidman for getting the injury in the first place that gave Bisping the short-notice title fight, Anderson Silva for not just finishing Bisping when he had him dead to rights in their fight a few months prior, or Bisping just because he’s already been my least-favourite UFC fighter.*  And now he got a belt…I still can’t believe it.

* = within the realm of fighters who I hate since they’re awful people in real life.  Bisping isn’t a criminal or a wifebeater or anything, he’s just really obnoxious. 

Even worse, Bisping has quite openly stated that he’s at or near the end of his career (I fully expect him to retire tomorrow, win or lose) and only wants to chase big-money fights.  Not title defences against legitimate middleweight contenders, of course, but rather a bout against the ancient Dan Henderson last year to avenge Bisping’s infamous knockout loss from all the way back in 2009 (!) and then…nothing.  The moment a GSP fight came on the table, Bisping absolutely ducked every top challenger to wait for him rather than face Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker (the current interim champ), Gegard Mousasi (who isn’t even in the UFC anymore), Jacare Souza (who has been screwed over for title shots for years), or even Rockhold in a rematch.  Between Bisping’s ducking and Weidman’s injuries, there have only been seven middleweight title fights since July 2013, a ridiculously small number given that this is arguably the most stacked division in the UFC.  Do I blame Bisping for chasing the dollar signs?  Kind of, actually, since maybe a guy who’s waited so long to become champion would actually have interest in properly defending it.  I mostly blame the new UFC ownership for their single-minded pursuit of money fights rather than treating their competition like an actual sport.  McGregoritis has infected every title-holder in the company.

So after all this complaining, I guess I should discuss the actual fight.  When in doubt, always pick GSP by decision.  Sure it’s been four years, and sure he’s fighting at middleweight for the first time, and sure I’m picking 100 percent with my heart since I love GSP and hate Bisping….but I just keep coming back to the idea that St. Pierre has traditionally been such a thinking man’s fighter that he wouldn’t do this without a reason.  He must know he can beat Bisping, otherwise why come back to potentially take a beating and add an unnecessary sour coda to his awesome career?  I want this to be true so badly.  I can’t imagine a world where Michael Bisping gets to retire a champion after wins over GSP, Dan Henderson, Luke Rockhold (one of these things just doesn’t belong here) and Anderson Silva.  How embarrassing.

* Joanna Jedrzejczyk over Rose Namajunas, decision
* Cody Garbrandt over TJ Dillashaw, knockout, third round
* Stephen Thompson over Jorge Masdival, decision
* Paulo Costa over Johny Hendricks, knockout, second round

* Walt Harris over Mark Goodbeer, knockout, first round
* Ricardo Ramos over Aiemann Zahabi, decision
* Oleksiy Oliynyk over Curtis Blaydes, submission, second round
* James Vick over Joseph Duffy, decision
* Mickey Gall over Randy Brown, submission, first round
* Corey Anderson over Ovince Saint Preux, decision

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Susan Sarandon For You

Example #2796 of why Nathan Fielder is a comic genius.