Sunday, June 30, 2019

Alas, Poor Yorick

Hamlet is already known as a literary masterpiece, to be sure.....

.....BUT, could it have been even better if Yorick's skull had talked back to Hamlet?  Possibly in a funny voice?  I'm guessing high-level anima-tronics weren't available in the early 1600s, but surely if any old high school can pull off a half-decent Audrey II in amateur productions of "Little Shop Of Horrors," surely Shakespeare's team back in the day could have rigged up some type of talking skull.

Maybe the actor playing Hamlet could've just operated it like a puppet, in the manner of Chief Wiggum.  Maybe the fifth act of the play could have revolved around a subplot where Hamlet insists that Yorick's skull can not only talk, but sing "Hello Ma Baby!" and other showtunes, though Yorick never does do when Horatio or anyone else is around.

I don't want to say I would've given Shakespeare notes or anything, but really, this kind of stands out as a missed opportunity.  So only a 9/ close, yet so far.

By the way, I will some day restart the Shakespearean play reviews.  Though maybe this should just be my whole entry for Hamlet?!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Lee Mack's Keys

Part of the appeal of "Would I Lie To You?" is trying to guess whether someone's wacky story is true or not.

The other part of the appeal is when Lee Mack is given an absolutely ridiculous story to sell, and he does his best to entertainingly explain it while everyone knows it's total rubbish.

This is the latter.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: I'm at my parents' house, and it seems like it's around midday.  I go into the main floor bathroom to wash my hands, but a quick glance at the mirror suddenly makes me realize I'm clean-shaven! My playoff beard is gone!

I leave the washroom and instantly accuse my mother of entering my room in the night and (somehow) shaving my face while I slept through the whole thing.  She basically just gives me a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and says "I guess it's a mystery!"

And then I woke up.

ANALYSIS: While I am an accredited dream interpreter and explorer of the subconscious, one needn't be an accredited dream interpreter and explorer of the subconscious to figure this one out.  My mom doesn't like my beard.  She has said as much to my face.  That is, when she has actually looked at my face, since she now basically can't do so without sighing or audibly saying "yikes!"  My new name around the house is also now either Wolfman or Wildman.

It should be noted that she is thus far the only one who has pooh-poohed the beard thus far, since the overwhelming majority opinion among friends, peers, and colleagues is that I should keep it.  Maybe with some styling, of course, since my sideburns were sticking out like I was some kind of Civil War general.  I figure at the very least I need to keep the beard until Halloween, since it has been pointed out to me that, when I wear sunglasses, I now resemble Randy "Macho Man" Savage.  All I need is a sequined robe and/or jacket with tassels, and I'll be rocking a great costume this year.  DIG IT.

But let's be fair, is my subconscious telling me that mother knows best?  Maybe she just needs to get a bit more accustomed to the look.  For her next birthday, I'll simply get several giant portraits of my bearded face placed around the house, so it will be inescapable.  No possible downside to this plan!

Since my bedroom door has a lock, the chances of an actual nocturnal razor attack are pretty slim.  Plus, let's be real, I'm not sure how I wouldn't wake up at some point during that whole experience.  Unless she were to drug me beforehand, but she would require access to everything I eat while.....hey wait....

I enjoy how this beard is still such a relatively new thing for me that I would feasibly go until the middle of the day without noticing it was missing.  While I may be an accredited dream interpreter and explorer of the subconscious, it isn't out of the question that I'd be able to miss something so obvious to the conscious mind.  I once mentioned to my buddy Trev that I'd noticed he'd gotten new license plates on his car, and he pointed out that he'd actually entirely new car.  What a keen eye!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Civic Title Droughts

With all due respect to Toronto FC and the 2017 MLS Cup, it had been an awfully long time since Toronto won a major sports title.  Among the “big four” (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL) sports, the Raptors’ championship drought ended at 26 years, leaving me wondering which cities/areas with current Big Four teams are currently in the biggest cold streaks.

Some of the geography is a mild but not altogether incorrect stretch, like when I count the Patriots for “Boston” even though they technically cover all of New England, or when “New York’s” last title was won by a team that actually plays in New Jersey.  And since we’re focused specifically on the locations themselves here, a team obviously can’t claim a championship won in a previous city — the OKC Thunder can’t boast about winning the NBA title in 1979.

Man, it’s great to see Toronto at the top of this list!

* Toronto, 2019 (Raptors NBA)
* St. Louis, 2019 (Blues NHL)
* Boston, 2019 (Patriots NFL)
* Oakland, 2018 (Warriors NBA)
* Washington D.C., 2018 (Capitals NHL)
* Philadelphia, 2018 (Eagles NFL)
* Houston, 2017 (Astros MLB)
* Pittsburgh, 2017 (Penguins NHL)
* Chicago, 2016 (Cubs MLB)
* Cleveland, 2016 (Cavaliers NBA)
* Denver, 2016 (Broncos NFL)
* Kansas City, 2015 (Royals MLB)
* San Francisco, 2014 (Giants MLB)(some SF fans will try to claim the Warriors’ as representing the entire Bay Area, but let’s cut Oakland some slack since the team is leaving anyway.  Besides, it’s not like 2014 was a long time ago)
* San Antonio, 2014 (Spurs NBA)
* Los Angeles, 2014 (Kings NHL)
* Seattle, 2014 (Seahawks NFL)
* Miami, 2013 (Heat NBA)
* Baltimore, 2013 (Ravens NFL)
* New York, 2012 (Giants NFL)(if you’re wondering, yes, seven years between titles is indeed the longest in NYC’s history since the 1920’s)
* Dallas, 2011 (Mavericks NBA)
* Green Bay/Milwaukee, 2011 (Packers NFL)(since the Pack are very much Wisconsin’s team, I’ll cut Milwaukee some slack here, since otherwise their title drought extends back to the Bucks’ lone NBA title in 1971)
* New Orleans, 2010 (Saints NFL)
* Detroit, 2008 (Red Wings NHL)
* Anaheim, 2007 (Ducks NHL)
* Indianapolis, 2007 (Colts NFL)
* Carolina/Charlotte 2006 (Hurricanes NHL)(ok, so Raleigh is almost three hours east of Charlotte, but if any Charlotte natives want to complain, just take the championship. It’s not like the Panthers or Hornets have ever won anything)
* Tampa Bay, 2004 (Lightning NHL)
* New Jersey/East Rutherford, 2003 (Devils NHL)
* Arizona/Phoenix, 2001 (Diamondbacks MLB)
* Atlanta, 1995 (Braves MLB)
* Montreal, 1993 (Canadiens NHL)
* Minnesota/Minneapolis/St. Paul, 1991 (Twins MLB)
* Cincinnati, 1990 (Reds MLB)
* Edmonton, 1990 (Oilers NHL)
* Calgary, 1989 (Flames NHL)
* Portland, 1977 (Trail Blazers NBA)
* Brooklyn, 1955 (Dodgers MLB)(I kind of hate parsing New York boroughs since otherwise I’d then have to get into acknowledging the Yankees as a Bronx team, the Islanders as a Long Island team, etc. But in this case, the Nets today and the Dodgers back in the day were specifically “Brooklyn” teams.)
* Ottawa, 1927 (Senators began play in 1992, and those jokers have NEVER won a Stanley Cup.  But the original Senators used to dominate the league, and a Canadian like me is happy to recognize those early Cup results.)
* Las Vegas, never (Golden Knights began play in 2017)
* Oklahoma City, never (Thunder began play in 2008)
* Memphis, never (Grizzlies began play in 2001)
* Columbus, never (Blue Jackets began play in 2000)
* Nashville/Tennessee, never (Titans and Predators began play in 1998)
* Jacksonville, never (Jaguars began play in 1995)
* San Jose, never (Sharks began play in 1991)
* Orlando, never (Magic began play in 1989)
* Sacramento, never (Kings began play in 1985)
* Winnipeg, never (the current Jets re-emerged in 2011, and the previous team existed in the NHL from 1979 to 1996. No, I’m not counting the Avco Cups from the WHA)
* Utah, never (Jazz began play in 1979)
* Vancouver, never (Canucks began play in 1970)
* Buffalo, never (Sabres began play in 1970, Bills joined the NFL in 1970 and were founding members of the AFL in 1960. No, I’m not counting the Bills’ two AFL titles.)
* San Diego, never (Padres began play in 1969, Chargers were in town from 1961-2016, those first nine years in the AFL.  Again, their 1963 AFL title means nothing to me.)

Monday, June 17, 2019

Diaz & Holt

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is already pretty great as it is, but if the show decided to entirely become a Dragnet-style deadpan comedy starring Rosa and Captain Holt, I wouldn't complain.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Raptors

I can't believe Leonard's shot in Game Seven actually went in.  I'm still vaguely in disbelief that they got past the 76ers altogether given how poorly the Raptors played in several of those games, but I guess it balanced since Philly also played like garbage for about half the series.

I can't believe they came back from 0-2 down against the Bucks to rattle off four straight wins and take the Eastern Conference.

I can't believe Fred VanVleet turned into the best non-Curry/Thompson shooter on earth as soon as he became a father.

I can't believe Kyle Lowry shook off all of the choking criticism by stepping up huge in Game Six of the Finals. I myself felt the Raptors could never win with Lowry on board, so I will grab a knife and fork and get to work on eating those words.

I can't believe Kevin Durant was injured for much of the Finals, since his cameo in Game Five indicated that a full-strength Warriors would've basically run the Raptors off the floor.  His injury is cataclysmic for both Golden State and the NBA as a whole going into the free agent season.

I really can't believe that Klay Thompson blew out his ACL in Game Six.  The Raptors were 100% losing that game against a healthy Klay, given that he couldn't miss a shot.  I don't even want to think about what a Game Seven would've been like, with everyone in Toronto dreading the worst and the Warriors playing with house money at that point.

I can't believe that Kawhi Leonard had one of the best postseason of any player ever, despite clearly playing with a bad leg.  It's true that Leonard is, at minimum, a top-five player in the NBA, but he might be next-level great, and the single best player in the league right now.

I can't believe that the crazy gambit of trading for Leonard paid off in such extreme and total fashion.

I can't believe that this team could be totally blown up over the summer and start a rebuild, but whatever, flags fly forever.

I can't believe the Blues won the Stanley Cup, which is off-topic, but I just so happy to see the loathsome Bruins eat an embarrassing loss.  Between the Bruins losing and the Raptors winning, best back-to-back days in Toronto sports history?

I can't believe that the twin karmic acts of trashing that Warriors hat and growing a playoff beard actually worked!  Who knew I had the power to end Golden State's dynasty at any time, if I'd just been more proactive about cleaning my trunk?  I may never shave again.

I can't believe that the Raptors are NBA champions, and that Toronto finally got back on the major sports championship board in such an unexpected way.  What a great win for the franchise, the city, everyone.  I'm blocks away from a major road, yet I could hear the cars honking deep into the night.

I can't believe it's not butter!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Black Mirror Episode Rankings (Updated!)

For the sake of the list, I'm considering Bandersnatch as an episode, even though it's technically considered a movie by all involved.

While I generally enjoyed the latest batch of episodes, it struck me that I didn’t find any of them particularly rewatchable.  (This especially stood out in contrast to Bandersnatch, which was specifically designed to be rewatched/replayed over and over.). The central premises of Striking Vipers, Smithereens, and Rachel Jack & Ashley Too were interesting, yet all sort of turned on specific narrative twists that once you got what was going on, it sucked a lot of narrative air out of the room.  These episodes all spend a lot of time asking a question, but then providing you with an answer that leaves a viewer just saying “oh, huh,” rather than “whoaaaaa, what?”

My new list ended up being pretty similar to my old one, since most of the new episodes fell into that same better-than-average category.  This is actually a bit worrying, since it hints that Black Mirror may be running out of ways to really surprise the audience.  Smithereens and RJ & A2 both tread some pretty well-worn ground — hey everybody, did you realize that social media runs our lives?!  And that a pop star’s music and persona can be manufactured?! — whereas Bandersnatch is almost entirely a gimmick rather than an actual story. 

Striking Vipers was easily the most interesting and unpredictable of the episodes, though in terms of storytelling, the episode unfolded a bit too slowly and deliberately.  The creativity gets it ahead of Smithereens on my list, even though Smithereens is a better-done overall hour of television in terms of building tension (even if that tension is ultimately paid off in a flat way).  I did appreciate, however, that Smithereens was one of the rare Black Mirror episodes with no futuristic technology, and it simply told a story that could easily happen today in our real world.

I also made a couple of adjustments in my judgement of past episodes, perhaps influenced by the newest series.  Playtest drops since its title as “the Black Mirror video game episode” has been decidedly lost to Striking Vipers — predictability plays a role here too, since while Playtest was well-done, you could definitely see where the story was going.

23. Nosedive
22. The Waldo Moment

21. Fifteen Million Merits
20. Black Museum

19. Men Against Fire
18. Metalhead
17. Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too
16. White Bear
15. Playtest
14. Arkangel
13. Crocodile

12. Smithereens
11. Striking Vipers
10. USS Callister
9. Bandersnatch

8. Shut Up And Dance
7. Be Right Back
6. The National Anthem
5. Hated In The Nation
4. White Christmas
3. Hang The DJ

2. The Entire History Of You
1. San Junipero

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Great Moments In iTunes History

Since Apple looks to be shutting the doors on iTunes, it's time to look back down memory lane.  My two favourite iTunes moments are both, by coincidence, U2-related...

1. That time a random shuffle delivered (in order) the live versions of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Pride" off the Rattle & Hum album, immediately followed by the album versions of the same two songs.  In a library of well over 600 songs, the statistical odds of this happening have to be astronomical.

2. That time U2 gave every iTunes user a free album, and everyone whined about it for months.  OH THE HUMANITY! 

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Other People's Writing

* It looks like I haven't done an OPW in a very long time, which I why I'm only now getting to this link from September by Chrissy Iley for the Sunday Times.  I swear, I didn't time this post to coincide with the recent news about U2 launching another "Joshua Tree Tour" leg in Australasia later this year, because Iley's piece is all about the (I can think of no other word) ordeal the band goes through in order to put on concerts night after night.  It's one of those things you don't think about as fans, but U2 are all guys approaching their 60's by this point, plus Larry and Bono both have well-documented physical issues --- it would frankly be surprising if they weren't feeling less-than-spry putting on these big energetic shows all the time.

* Here's another oldie but a goldie that I swear I've posted here before, but can't find it.  It's by Pasha Malla for McSweeney's, and it's a high school basketball coach's guide for covering Teen Wolf, by Pasha Malla.  My friend Kyle, an aficionado of both comedy and basketball, calls this his favourite McSweeney's article of all time, which is certainly high praise.  My only worry in publishing this link now is that someone from the Golden State Warriors will come across it, and get tips on how to stop Kawhi Leonard.

* A piece by the New Yorker's Ian Parker about novelist Dan "A.J. Finn" Mallory, who seems to be a total fraud in most aspects of his life.  Since being published earlier this year, this piece has been held up as sort of profile in sociopathy, and Parker himself draws a strong parallel between Mallory and Tom Ripley (Mallory is a huge Patricia Highsmith fan).  It strikes me that the Occam's Razor answer might just be that Mallory isn't necessarily a sociopath, but someone who is just extremely full of himself and pathologically lies to build up his public persona.  I did laugh at the section in the piece where it's revealed that Mallory's book is more or less a copy of the movie Copycat -- somewhere, a desperate-for-work Harry Connick Jr. is hoping to be cast in The Dan Mallory Story.

* We go from a would-be genius craving the spotlight to an actual genius who rejects it, in this profile of the great Elaine May by The Ringer's Lindsay Zoladz.  On the short list for funniest person of the 20th century, May is one of those rare people who seemed to be good at everything she did, whether it was being part of a renowned improv duo to directing her own films to writing and ghostwriting seemingly dozens of well-known hit films.  Maybe the entire theme of this OPW is me questioning whether or not I've linked to items before, since have I never posted any Nichols & May stuff?  What an oversight.