Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Does He Know The Lyrics?

"We'll tonight thank god it's them instead of youuuuuuuuu!"

Listening to "Do They Know It's Christmas" on the radio the other day*, it occurred to me for the thousandth time that Bono's lyric makes no sense at all.  His line is arguably the most memorable of the song, given that a) it's the lyrical climax, b) Bono really puts a lot of oomph into the delivery and c) Bono is one of the few in Band Aid who is still famous and even kind of relevant here in 2018.

* = why this song was playing in July is anyone's guess

Here are the full lyrics to the song, basically summarized as such: "Christmas is a great time of year but things aren't nearly as merry in Africa, so keep them in your thoughts and donate some money to provide food, while you're at it."  Perfectly lovely sentiment.  And then, right in the middle, here's Bono essentially throwing that sentiment under the bus by saying, in effect, "hey, better them than us, eh?"

Three theories…

1) The discordant line was meant to essentially sum up the western view of African suffering.  This is pretty dark for an Xmas song, but that's the point --- it's the jolt line in the middle of this celebrity charity sing-along.

2) I'm misinterpreting the line entirely and its intent is really the equivalent of "tonight thank god FOR them instead of you," as in, Band Aid are taking a moment to focus on the unfortunates rather than the happy one-percenters in the western world.  Bono is notorious for forgetting or altering lyrics (even to his own songs that he's been singing for decades) so perhaps he replaced the "it's" for the "for" and it just wasn't noticed during the recording process because…

3) …everyone was so drunk and/or high during the session that Bob Geldof just let the whole thing slide.  And then once the song was released they had to stick to it, to the point that Bono returned to sing the same line during the 20th anniversary version re-recorded with modern stars* in 2004.

* = Ok, well, modern "stars."  Not a lot of names jump out on that 2004 list as people who are still relevant today; it seems like most of the famous names (Paul McCartney, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood) stuck to the instrumentation, possibly so they could avoid having to sing a bizarre lyrics that people are still writing blog posts about years later.  Then again, the 1984 version featured the likes of members of Shalamar, Ultravox, Heaven 17 and Status Quo, so it wasn't quite as star-studded as one remembers.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Frasier Redux

"Frasier" is one of my all-time favourite shows. It has impacted my life to the point that some have even compared my personality to that of Frasier Crane himself, which is....well, not really a compliment, but whatever, you get the point, I love the show.

With this in mind, let me be perfectly clear about this --- the potential new incarnation of a "Frasier" TV series is not a good idea.

Now, it seems like the basic idea of this show steers clear of the most obvious pitfalls of a Frasier reboot.  For one, it wouldn't really be a reboot.  Dr. Crane would again find himself in a new city, surrounded by an entirely new supporting cast.  This is a wise move, as it automatically distances the character from "Frasier" (much in the way that the first spinoff distanced itself from "Cheers" by sending Frasier from Boston to Seattle) and diminishes audience expectations/fears that we'll see Niles, Daphne, Roz, and company all pop up on a regular basis.  Sadly, not John Mahoney, RIP.

So, a new Frasier show would be different than other recent relaunched sitcoms (i.e. Roseanne, Will & Grace) in that it wouldn't just be in the old cast in new stories, but rather one new characters in new stories, launched in a new direction in his life.  Just throwing it out there, but the kid who played Freddy Crane (Trevor Einhorn) is still an actor, with such credits as Mad Men and The Magicians to his name.  The most obvious scenario would be to have Frasier move in with Freddy in, say, Kansas City or some random midwest American city* and we get a revamp of the Martin/Frasier dynamic with Frasier now in the role of father constantly sparring with his son.

* Frasier's done Boston and Seattle, time to hit the Central Time Zone

But don't let my admittedly brilliant plot idea fool you, this show shouldn't happen.  I've recently begun to apply the metric of "does this really need to happen?" metric to any sort of sequel, reboot, spinoff, prequel, etc.  The answer, four times out of five, is just a flat-out no.  I guess you could broadly argue that entertainment by its very nature doesn't NEED to happen no matter how good, though then you're just a philistine. 

I ask you, does the world need to see 63-year-old Kelsey Grammer playing Frasier Crane making jokes about millennials?  Would any Frasier series be worth its salt if it didn't have the brilliant writers from the original series and/or Cheers working on the scripts?  Do we need to see the inevitable Niles/Daphne/Roz/probably Bulldog, Kenny, Gil, and the KACL gang cameos?  I say no.  Leave the memories alone.  Sometimes it's time to just let the blues keep calling without picking up the salad prongs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Survivor Ratings: Wendell

While I did take all of May off, it’s pretty telling that I’m only getting around to my usual Survivor winner analysis two months after Ghost Island wrapped up.  It wasn’t my least-favourite season ever since it wasn’t overtly offensive or unpleasant to watch (here’s looking at you, All-Stars, or Worlds Apart, or Redemption Island), yet this was quite possibly the most bland Survivor series yet.  I suppose it’s a plus that Wendell Holland, one of the few players allowed to show a spark of personality, ended up winning, but man, was it ever an uninteresting journey.  Honestly, two months later, I had to rely on some reference material just to refresh my memory on what even happened during the season.

How He Won: The classic Survivor strategy of forming a tight, yet also multi-layered alliance.  Wendell’s chief ally from day one was Domenick, which rode through to the end of the game even though Dom took the obligatory shot at trying to eliminate Wendell before the final three (Wendell openly admitted he would’ve done the same to Dom had the positions been reversed).  Wendell’s greatest ally, of course, ended up being Laurel, as evidenced by the all-important tiebreaker vote, a.k.a. the season’s only unique and interesting moment.  It was legitimately fun seeing everyone’s shocked face when Jeff started reading the votes on the island, with the added bonus of Dom’s humourous “I have NO shot” expression when it was revealed that Laurel would be the tie-breaker.

But I digress!  Wendell benefited from the near-comical dominance of the Naviti tribe, who got out to the early numbers advantage over Malolo and then kept it throughout the entire game, no matter how many more new tribe swaps and re-alignments took place.  Wendell was only really in trouble once in the entire game — when the Malolo minority took advantage of the Dom/Chris schism on the third vote and got Morgan out of the game.  That could’ve just as easily been Wendell going out of the game at that point, though I’d guess his close connection to Domenick made the others wary of a possible idol.

Regardless, Wendell soon found his own hidden immunity idol and it was smooth sailing from there.  Thanks to Wendell and Domenick aligning with Laurel and Donathan from the Malolo minority, that gave them the added numbers to stay strong once Naviti started cannibalizing itself.  Bradley went even before the merge, The Chris Noble Experience ended at the merge vote, Desiree got herself booted when she tried to make her own move, and suddenly the Kellyn/Chelsea/Sebastian/Angela faction were outnumbered by Wendell, Dom, Don, and Laurel.

Now, since this season’s editing was absolutely as poor as could be, we never really got a sense of inner-tribe dynamics, or why some votes and relationships went the way they did.  At times it seemed like Kellyn was really tight with Dom and Wendell, and other times it seemed like they were rivals.  At times it looked like Kellyn and company might have their own sub-alliance going, but that never amounted to anything.  At times it looked like Chelsea might get more than five words in an episode, but nope. 

I’ve ranted at length about how the post-show interviews with the cast reveal way more of what actually happened on the island than the actual show itself, so I just feel weary at this point that Survivor insists on manufacturing narratives when some interesting narratives are already taking place.  Not to mention all the time spent on discussing vote-splitting, and idols, and all of the extra advantages on Ghost Island rather than more time spent on the personalities of the players playing the game.

In fact, it seems that the Survivor producers unwittingly created a dull season for themselves in their attempts to add more uncertainty to the game via Ghost Island.  Theoretically, all the advantages in play would’ve led to crazy blindsides and power shifts.  In practice, it seems like all the uncertainty led to very rote gameplay — you can’t blame Naviti for just keeping it simple and knocking out the opposing tribe given the threat of twists and advantages hanging over everyone’s head.  This certainly contributed to Wendell’s win.  Given that Wendell and Domenick were openly acknowledged early on as a strong power couple, you’d think an earlier attempt would’ve been made to break them up, but the Naviti crew was mostly focused on just controlling what they could and just going for the Malolo sitting ducks, and then the more overtly outspoken alliance members in Chris and Desiree.

Again, I blame the game-focused edit for not giving us too much of Wendell’s personality (aside from his critique of Chris’ rap skills), though he seemed to be a likeable guy who also had the challenge ability to protect himself in a couple of key spots.  Essentially, Wendell ended up playing a version of The Amber Strategy, teaming up with a more overtly aggressive alliance member and then using his good-cop vibe to get more votes than Dom the bad cop in the final tribal council vote.

That said, of course, it was as close as a vote could get.  Some of Domenick’s rougher edges were apparently hidden in editing, though on the show itself, he also seemed like a decent guy and a decent player.  It boggles the mind that, even though Wendell and Dom got a lot of airtime, I still don’t really have a great handle on this partnership and the specifics that each guy brought to the table.  Survivor did a much better job of building up the Chris/Domenick rivalry to a worthy payoff, but it couldn’t make a similar, season-long build of Dom and Wendell as these two major players headed for a collision in a historic final vote?  You’d think the idea of two somewhat alpha-male, somewhat “Survivor is about idols and blindsides” type of players going head-to-head would be Jeff Probst’s dream scenario, yet even this big collision didn’t deliver.

Could He Do It Again?
: As noted, Wendell basically never had to play from behind all season, so who knows how he’d fare if he had to face some prolonged adversity.  As with Sarah and Ben in the last two series, I’m finding it increasingly hard to actually gauge the quality of victories in these recent Survivor seasons due to the annoying preponderance of idols, advantages, vote steals, etc.  Wendell seems to have the overall skills to be a good player in most circumstances, though maybe he was actually just fortunate to be on the winning tribe, and teamed with a guy who had a bunch of idols and advantages.  Survivor wants to present itself as an Amazing Race-style game where a winner wins due to specifically doing A, B, and C, though the real reason players win jury votes (their personality and social game) is often set by the wayside.  We’ll revisit the topic in my next Survivor winner analysis, which will probably come about five months after the next season ends.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Hot! Live! Music!

U2, "You're The Best Thing About Me"
U2 is playing an acoustic version of this song on tour, which seems like a misfire or maybe even a surrender, as the guys reportedly didn't feel they ever really nailed a full-band version.  To this, I say...um, remember LAST year's tour?!   

U2, "Summer Of Love"
This is the only time SOL (hmm, unfortunately acronym) has ever been played live, which also seem like an odd choice by U2.  If you're looking for something to fit into an acoustic slot in a concert, look no further.  This is, by the way, arguably my favourite track on Songs Of Experience, and there's an alternate reality out there where U2 released the version with Lady Gaga in a prominent co-vocal role and the song became a big hit.

U2, "Bad"
I really need to go through these H!L!M! posts at some point to see just how many times I've uploaded performances of "Bad."  It has to be a good half-dozen at this point, though this is the first with the utterly amazing "Heroes" tag at the end.  The actual song kicks in at 1:50, btw.

U2, "Magnificent"
After seemingly losing interest in this song even during its own tour, U2 somewhat inexplicably brought it back for a one-off performance with a new arrangement during the Innocence & Experience Tour.  I like the faster pace and more driving vibe, it really helps it take off as a live track.  At this rate, it'll re-emerge as a live staple around what, 2021?

Friday, July 20, 2018

This Decade's Radiohead Concert

Way back in 1997, just after OK Computer hit the shelves, Radiohead played a concert in (of all places) my hometown of London, Ontario.  This was the first “real” concert I’d ever attended, my parents taking me to go see Sharon, Lois & Bram as a four-year-old notwithstanding.  Fast-forward to 2008, and I saw Radiohead for a second time, this show taking place on a rainy night at the Molson Amphitheatre.

And now, almost exactly 10 years later, there I was at Radiohead concert #3.  This one was in the more comfortable environs of the Air Can…er, Scotiabank Centre,* though unfortunately, my actual comfort during the show was limited.  If Radiohead concerts serve as 2001-esque monoliths in my life as a concert-goer, we’ve hit the next step in my evolution.  We went from newbie, to seasoned music-watcher, to Too Old For General Admission. 

* = wow, it’ll take a while to get used to writing that  

After four hours of standing and sorta-dancing on concrete, my legs, feet, and back were absolutely killing me.  My friend M, co-attendee at the show, was also nursing sore feet due to an ill-advised choice of shoes, so we made quite the pair hobbling our way up the stairs after the concert was over.  Now, to be fair, it was our own fault we were in this predicament, as we’d gotten in relatively early and took up a prime spot about 35 feet away from the stage, dead-centre.  There was thus little room to really maneuver ourselves for any additional comfort, since we were packt like sardines in a crushd tin box amidst the many other fans wanting to get close to the stage.

I’ve spent this much time on my general physical condition since it couldn’t help but impact my enjoyment of the concert.  You know you’re hurting when the band comes out for a second encore and your first thought is “NOOOOOOO.”  Needless to say, however, my soreness shouldn’t take away from Radiohead still putting on a great show after all these years.

For something completely different, the opening act was Shye Ben Tzur, an Israeli musician whose material is sort of fusion of Israeli and Indian music.  He was joined by his backing band, the Rajasthan Express, and also….Jonny Greenwood, since what better way to prepare for a concert by playing another concert.  We weren’t even aware that there even was an opening act for the show, so this was a fun surprise, particularly as the band was fantastic.  They really got the crowd fired up and into the music, which often can’t be said for more familiar bands in more familiar genres. 

This tour might technically still be in support of A Moon-Shaped Pool, though Radiohead only played four songs off the album, including the rather surprising omission of “Burn The Witch.”  Judging from other setlists on the tour, Radiohead is basically just playing whatever they want on the tour, so you’re likely in for quite a bit of variance if you attend multiple shows.  The cool thing about Radiohead generally shying away from their most well-known past material (from OK Computer and The Bends) and not really having too many mainstream singles in the interim is that they could easily come out the next night and play 25 entirely different songs and put on just as satisfying a performance.  I mean, I personally could’ve done without all the King Of Limbs stuff aside from personal favourite “Lotus Flower,” but to each their own.

The stage was brilliant in its simplicity, with just one oval-shaped (or moon-shaped!) video screen lit with various different colour-filters, either showing multiple images of the band members in a sort of hive collage, or other vaguely computerized imagery, like radio waves, an EKG monitor, or the traditional Matrix-style green computer text during “The Gloaming.”

Radiohead has added a new member to their live concerts since I saw them last, as they now have an additional drummer on stage.  At first I thought Phil Selway was being phased out, or we were getting a guest appearance from Ringo Starr, though it ended up being another extra body who was more of a percussionist and other random instrumentalist rather than a strict drummer.  They didn’t really get too kooky with double beats or anything when Selway and New Guy were both drumming at the same time, either.  Frankly, I’m surprised Radiohead can replicate all their unique sounds on-stage with six guys, so requiring just one more extra person is still pretty impressive.

I’m highly looking forward to seeing Radiohead again in, say, 2028.  Needless to say, I’ll be watching from the comfort of an actual seat.

The setlist….

1. Daydreaming
2. Ful Stop
3. Myxomatosis
4. Morning Bell
5. All I Need
6. Videotape
7. The Gloaming
8. No Surprises
9. Airbag
10. Where I End And You Begin
11. Bloom
12. Feral
13. The Numbers
14. Like Spinning Plates
15. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
16. Bodysnatchers
17. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
—ENCORE #1 —
18. 2 + 2 = 5
19. Nude
20. Identikit
21. Lotus Flower
22. The Tourist
— ENCORE #2 —
23. Everything In Its Right Place
24. Idioteque
25. Karma Police

Friday, July 13, 2018

Sona Needs A Car

The legendary Sona/Conan (Sonan?) comedy team reunites to get Sona a new vehicle.  Frankly, I was hoping for one of those hummers, painted in the shade of Conan's hair.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Saint Mark 2.0

To be canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church, one must have two recorded miracles to their credit.  Piece of cake.

MIRACLE THE FIRST: Years ago, I was doing some work while listening to music, and my iTunes shuffle randomly delivered these four songs in a row.

* I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (original album version)
* I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (Rattle & Hum live version)
* Pride (Rattle & Hum live version)
* Pride (original album version)

This was on a complete shuffle of my entire library, so it wasn't a case where I had a specific U2 mix or anything.  Out of over 600 songs at that point, this exact quartet came up.  I ask you, what are the odds of that happening?

Now, you might ask how this could technically be a miracle from my own hand, as it would seemingly be just a coincidental spin of my iTunes' song-picking matrix.  But, think about it....who put the songs ON the iTunes in the first place?  #Mindblown #GalaxyBrain #Whaaaaaaaat

MIRACLE THE SECOND: Years ago, my friends and I were hanging out at the Palasade, London's finest all-purpose game-based eatery.  Picture a Chuck E. Cheese for adults.  After a night of carousing, we hit the arcade for some fun, and I happened upon a Deal Or No Deal game.  I selected my briefcase* and away I went, with the machine offering tokens for the arcade's prize booth in lieu of actual cash.

* = sadly, I don't remember the exact number of my case.  If I had to guess, it was Aaron Rodgers' #12, or perhaps #5 in honour of Johnny Five from Short Circuit.

I almost instantly knocked several of the biggest dollar values off the board with my first few cases, leaving me with a tough decision.  Statistically, I probably should've walked away right there and taken the banker's offer...but no.  I went into the next round and knocked out more cases, leaving just the "million dollars" at the top and then a long dropoff to the remaining figures.  Again, by all logic, I should've taken the banker's next offer....but no.

On and on we went, until there's just my own case and one remaining on the board.  The million is still active, as is one token minor dollar amount, $25 or something.  The banker offers me the halfway point between the two sums.  Anyone with any vague knowledge of the Monty Hall Problem would've been screaming at me to take the sum and walk away, secure in the comfort of being able to spend my tokens on at least some candy rather than risk it all and wind up with one stinking token and would hardly have bought me a single Skittle.

And yet, I just knew.  I rode all the way to the end with my briefcase, and sure enough, there was the top prize.  I was a millionaire, of sorts.  The Palasade patrons were treated to quite the display of whooping as I celebrated my victory, with the machine just spewing out tokens in an unbroken stream of glory.

If I recall correctly, I spent all 100 tokens or whatever it was on those little rocket-sticks candy things.  They were delicious.  My dentist probably shuddered, but whatever, it was glorious.

So there they are, my two miracles.  Ball's in your court now, Pope.  Question, do I actually have to be Catholic to be a saint, since that might be a bit of a roadblock.  Also, since there already is a Saint Mark, so I get Roman numerals beside my name or what?

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Between Two Ferns?!

As one might say about Hangover sequels except without the tinge of disappointment in their voice....they're still doing these?  It's hard to top the surreal nature of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as guests, but if you think about it, Seinfeld is basically the president of 90's comedy.  Sure, why not.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The Warriors Aren't "Unfair"

Boogie Cousins just signed a one-year deal to join the Warriors for the mid-level exception ($5.3 million) salary.  The move has triggered a fresh wave of complaining about how the Golden State dynasty is bad for the NBA and how the Warriors' accumulation of talent is somehow unfair or anti-competition.

Here's the breakdown of why this argument is, in short, dumb....

* Golden State built its core group from within.  Five other teams had a chance to draft Steph Curry in 2009.  Nine other teams had a chance to draft Klay Thompson in 2011.  EVERY team had a chance to draft Draymond Green in 2012, as the Warriors didn't take him until the second round.  This is some all-time talent mining, as Golden State is the rare NBA powerhouse that wasn't built around a clear-cut, top-of-the-draft franchise player that everyone knew was going to be great from day one.  Just as crucially, because these guys weren't all total blue-chip picks, Golden State was able to sign them to contract extensions that ended up being massive bargains for the team, and allowed them the future salary cap space for signing the likes of Kevin Durant.

I think this is at the root of most fans' anti-Warriors frustrations --- they're just mad that their team didn't draft this well. 

* Because NBA history is littered with superstar players (like Kevin Durant) leaving their original team to join up with a team that has a better chance of winning.  I have to laugh when I see NBA old-timers complaining that they would've never "joined a rival" as Durant allegedly did, when half of the big stars in history pulled strings to end up with their preferred team, usually the Lakers.

Also, people seem to be overlooking the 'free' aspect of free agency.  Why *wouldn't* Durant have wanted to join Golden State?  If you take it from a real-world context, if someone is working at a successful-but-flawed company, what would be wrong with them leaving for a job at the most successful company in the same industry?  The same fans ripping on Durant for this so-called sellout move would've been the same fans criticizing Durant for his lack of rings, had he remained in Oklahoma City with the seemingly-insufferable-to-play-with Russell Westbrook.  It wouldn't surprise me if Durant made up his mind about leaving OKC the moment the Thunder dealt James Harden; here was a team that had an even better homegrown trio than the Warriors, yet they threw Harden away rather than pay a few extra million in luxury tax money.

* The same "why WOULDN'T a free agent want to go to Golden State" argument can be applied to Cousins, albeit in a very different circumstance.  Cousins is trying to return from a torn Achilles and very well might not actually take the court until 2019.  He's going to be spending this season figuring out what he can and can't do physically, so this is definitely not going to be the All-Star version of Boogie that fans are remembering.  I'm sure he would've loved a max contract had one been on the table, but teams were understandably not willing to make such an offer to a player coming off such a major surgery, not to mention a player with Cousins' off-the-court baggage.  It wouldn't be a shock if Golden State outright releases Cousins at some point if he becomes an issue, either physically or personality-wise, since the team has so little invested in him.  

* Getting back to my point about how NBA stars throughout history have happily joined up with better teams, why are fans acting like the Warriors' superiority is somehow a new thing for basketball?  No league is as dynasty-driven as the NBA.  From the Celtics to the Lakers to the Bulls to the Lakers again to the Spurs to the Warriors, not to mention mini-dynasties in between like the brief periods of dominance for the Pistons, Rockets, and Heat, the league has always been all about teams completely taking things over for years to decades at a time.

The Warriors are almost surely going to win the NBA championship against in 2018-19, so if you're tired of watching them win, too bad.  After next season, however, things get interesting.  Thompson will be a free agent.  Durant has a player option for 2019-20, so he could potentially pursue another challenge elsewhere.  If the original team was Phase One and the Durant era was Phase Two, it'll be fascinating to see how things develop for Golden State in the next phase of their dynasty, if it even remains a dynasty.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Maple Leaf Forever

Can you believe I let it get past 11pm on Canada Day before making my traditional July 1 "here's a bunch of Canadian stuff" post?  Shameful.

We begin this year's collection with JOHN TAVARES SIGNING WITH THE MAPLE LEAFS.  This is not a drill, people!