Friday, January 31, 2020

Hot! Live! Music!

Puddles Pity Party, "Friday I'm In Love"
What better song to post on a Friday?  This is kind of a unique version, as you've got Puddles (who is your standard "seven-foot-tall guy dressed as a clown who sings somber cover versions of popular songs" act) doing this Cure classic in the style of Bruce Springsteen, more or less combining it with "Thunder Road."  In short, this song could hardly be more up my alley.  Hot take: is "Friday I'm In Love" the best pop song of all time?

Postmodern Jukebox and Mario Jose, "Juice"
The galaxy-brain version of the "get Weird Al to play the Super Bow halftime show" idea would be to get the Postmodern Jukebox to play it, with a revolving door of singers (like Mario Jose) covering every hit under the sun.  For the next Super Bowl in New Orleans, for instance, play everything in the style of old-school N'awlins jazz.

Robyn Adele Anderson, "Intergalactic"
Robyn Anderson could be one of the PMJ's singers, as long as they manage to bury the hatchet of this imaginary feud between them that exists entirely within my head.  You know, because RAA now essentially does the PMJ's schtick on her own personal series of videos, and I can only imagine there's some bad blood.  I have zero idea, by the way, if she preceded the Postmodern Jukebox, or if they're completely cool with it since ultimately they're both just cover artists anyway, or if maybe it says something about me that I negatively assume everyone starts rivalry over petty matters.  Why can't I be more like Mario C, who likes to keep it clean?

Duran Duran, "A View To A Kill/Bond medley"
Duran Duran is one of those bands that I know virtually nothing about, besides their 3-4 biggest hits and the fact that they were one of the biggest bands in the world for much of the 80's.  Actually, I'm selling them short by saying three or four hits --- this seems like one of those instances where if I took ten seconds to properly look up their greatest hits album, I'd be like "wait, that's also a Duran Duran song? And so is that?!" and eventually I'd realize I enjoy like 13 of their tracks.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Other People's Writing

* I probably should've cited this at some point in 2019 when it actually was 25 years since the first season of Friends, but better late than never.  It's Wesley Morris of the New York Times discussing the show's still-rather incredible cultural influence, touching on such interesting topics as how the six characters both seemed to Flandersize and evolve at the same time, how younger fans today see Friends as sort of a fantasy of what adult life is like, and (perhaps most interestingly) how there were six of them.  Much has been written about how Friends nailed its casting to the nth degree, yet the actual size of the cast was a key factor.  It was an even gender split, nobody new was ever added, nobody ever left, and the dynamic never altered through all ten seasons.

* The Ringer's Brian Phillips writes a fascinating piece about the state of murder of entertainment, both in fictional and non-fictional varieties.  As someone who has read a thousand mystery novels and devoured all sorts of detective shows, it made me I a bloodthirsty voyeur?  Not the kind of self-analysis one necessarily expects as one sifts through the Ringer's usual collection of stories about Joel Embiid's social media, and staff-wide exit polls about movie trailers.

* Maybe I'm not obsessed with murder, but just with odd crime narratives in general?  Like when the New York Times' Corey Kilgannon relates the story of how the American Museum Of Natural History was robbed in 1964, a.k.a. the biggest jewelry theft in known U.S. history.  They made a movie version of the heist in the 70's, but why the Coen brothers haven't turned this particular cast of characters into a modern film yet is beyond me.

* Oh, make that the Ringer's usual collection of stories about Joel Embiid's social media, staff-wide exit polls about movie trailers, and oral histories of pop culture or sports events --- or both, in the case of Alan Siegel's oral history of Prince's halftime show at Super Bowl 41.  The good news is that, like any Prince anecdote, you can't help read it like a Charlie Murphy Prince story, so it's endlessly entertaining.  I guess my main quibble is, if you think Prince had the best halftime show ever, that's certainly a defensible stance and maybe even the correct one.  But U2 isn't even mentioned anywhere in the story?  Really?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Packers Postmortem

Geez, they couldn't stop the run, eh?

Green Bay's run defense has been a gong show all season long, and it was their ultimate downfall in the NFC title game.  Raheem Mostert, aided by the 49ers' excellent offensive line, ran for an ungodly 220 yards and an Al Bundy-esque four touchdowns against the Packers, who made Mostert seem like the second coming of Walter Payton and Jim Brown combined.  Combine this season-long weakness with the collapse of a season-long strength in the turnover department (the Packers rarely turned the ball over during the regular season, but had three turnovers against San Francisco), and it was no shock that the NFC championship game was a blowout.

But, as I've said over the last couple of weeks, this season has already been a big success.  It was no secret that the Packers weren't as good as the 49ers, and since San Fran might indeed be the best team in the entire league, maybe I can claim the Pack as the NFL silver medalist?  After all, the Packers did beat Kansas City during the season, and I'm sure Green Bay absolutely would've won that game had Patrick Mahomes been

So the Packers head into the offseason with the clear need for better run defense and for more offensive playmakers besides stars Aaron Jones and Davante Adams.  Fortunately, there's plenty of room for new additions since Green Bay has a lot of free agents who are notable in name (i.e. Blake Martinez, Bryan Bulaga, Jimmy Graham, Kyler Fackrell, Mason Crosby) but whose overall value to the 2019 team was inconsistent at best.  Except for the still-reliable Crosby, I'm fine with the Pack getting all of these guys walk and focusing on an overhaul of the offensive and defensive lines.  Given that everyone on the 49ers looked at least a step ahead of everyone on the Packers last Sunday, Green Bay needs to be getting much faster on the defense.

Onward and upward!  We'll take that silver medal into 2020 and win Super Bowl 55, exactly ten years after the team's last championship.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Star Guitar

Tom Rowlands of the Chemical Brothers recently a birthday last week, and I for one was disappointed to learn that the band is comprised of Rowlands and Ed Simons, rather than (for instance) two siblings named Bill and Terry Chemical.  But, as a belated birthday shoutout, let me post one of the underrated Greatest Music Video Ever candidates. 

I remember watching this on MuchMusic back in the day and thinking it was pretty uninteresting, until around three minutes in I noticed "huh, that beat kind of matched that bit of background."  Then it took me another viewing to realize, hey wait a second...

Friday, January 17, 2020

More NFL Playoff Predictions

Another Packers victory, another week of me bothering to write about the NFL postseason!

* Chiefs over Titans
I hemmed and hawed for quite a while over this one, since Tennessee has serious "team of destiny" vibes going.  Derrick Henry is on the biggest roll of any running back...geez, maybe ever?  In my lifetime, at least?  Unlike the Houston Texans, the Titans aren't idiots, and will absolutely win if K.C. has another nightmare quarter and falls behind by 20 points.  The way Tennessee can control the clock with Henry running, it might even be 10 points.  The flip side of the equation, however, is that while I'm increasingly confident in Tennessee's ability to protect such a lead, I am 100% confident in Patrick Mahomes' ability to wipe out any deficit.  My feeling last week that Mahomes was peaking proved to be correct, as he shook off that nightmare quarter against Houston and proceeded to obliterate the rest of the game.  The Titans' miracle run could absolutely continue all the way into and through the Super Bowl, but narrowly, I'll stick with Mahomes and the Chiefs.  If Mahomes really is the league's best quarterback, which I believe he is, then one can't go against the league's best QB when he's at home in a conference final.

* 49ers over Packers
Let the record show that I don't always pick Green Bay in these things.  The unfortunate part is, those damn Vikings probably screwed things up for the Pack, marking probably the first time in a decade that Minnesota got truly one over on the division rivals.  If the Vikings just lose to New Orleans, that would've set up Saints at Packers, and I'm assuming that the Saints still do their usual fade when outdoors in frigid Lambeau Field.  More importantly, the other NFC semi-final would've been 49ers vs. Seahawks, and I think Seattle was the only NFC team that had a shot at stopping San Francisco based on their always-close divisional games.  Bah!

In short, I don't think the Packers have the horses to keep up with all the talent up and down the 49ers' roster.  Had this been Jimmy Garoppolo's first playoff game, I would've been more confident, but Garoppolo got the traditional first-game jitters out of the way against Minnesota last week (not that the Vikings did anything to capitalize on Garoppolo's early struggles).  I can't shake the fact that San Francisco just crushed Green Bay less than two months ago --- even counting the "it was just one of those weeks" factor, the 49ers so thoroughly owned that game that I can't just chalk it up to an off day.  Unless 2011 Aaron Rodgers magically shows up on Sunday, I'm afraid my team's wonderful season is going to end.

Friday, January 10, 2020

NFL Playoff Predictions

With the Packers back in the playoffs, it’s time for the Polivision Playoff Preview!  So many P’s!  Like in Mario 3, we’re taking things to the next level with the P-Wing!

* Chiefs over Texans
After an offseason of considering the Chiefs to be Super Bowl contenders, it felt like everyone sort of collectively gave up on them pretty quickly.  Pat Mahomes turned his ankle in the first week, it bothered him for a couple of months, he missed some games, and everyone was distracted by shiny new objects around the league.  Meanwhile, Mahomes got healthy, had a bye week to heal up, and now Kansas City has quietly won six in a row and earned the first-round bye that everyone had earmarked for the Patriots since, like, 2012 or something.  I realize that one cannot take the Chiefs in January without acknowledging Andy Reid’s history of postseason calamity, or the Chiefs’ unfathomably bad 1-7 record in their last eight HOME playoff games (!), but I’m also going to acknowledge that I don’t think Houston is very good.  It took some real luck for them to beat the Bills last week in a game that, coaching-wise, made Andy Reid’s postseason mishaps look like child’s play.  A healthy Will Fuller would make this much more interesting for the Texans, but I think K.C. and Mahomes are peaking at the right time and have got this.

* Ravens over Titans
Speaking of peaking, I rhymed!  Speaking of performing well as a football team at the right moment, it’s been a season of right moments for the Ravens and their twelve-game winning streak.  Many of those wins weren’t close, Lamar Jackson is the MVP, the defense is playing well, the special teams is playing well, the team is well-coached… the brother of an obnoxious Baltimore fan, it’s been a rough season for me.  Tennessee has been a nice story themselves but I think they won their metaphorical Super Bowl last week by knocking off the Patriots, so this week is the reality check.

* 49ers over Vikings
This one feels surprisingly close.  Speaking of a reality check, there is a very good chance the 49ers just lay a 30-point beatdown and Kirk Cousins turns back into a pumpkin, but there’s also something vaguely stirring about this Vikings team.  Beating the Saints in New Orleans is perhaps slightly an overrated achievement given the Saints’ quiet history of postseason disappointment over the last decade, but still, it’s a definite achievement.  If Minnesota’s defense can give Jimmy Garoppolo the first-playoff game jitters, this one will get dicey very quickly.  At the end of the day, however, I’m ultimately not confident enough to pick against the Niners at home against (since we’ve already mentioned the concept of playoff calamity) the Minnesota Vikings.

* Packers over Seahawks
There’s a chance this will be the single craziest game in NFL history.  The Packers have played nothing but relatively close games all season, due to their inability to play more than 25 minutes of good football in any game.  The Seahawks play nothing but close games since three-quarters of their team is injured but Russell Wilson is just a destroyer of worlds.  I am mentally prepared for any kooky possibility — five overtimes, a tie that results in some type of three-team NFC championship game next week, a dinosaur runs out onto the field, Pete Carroll actually calls a run play near the end zone at the end of a game, etc.

Not to toot my own horn, but my preseason observation about Green Bay has thus far been accurate.  Lo and behold, the Packers get rid of a dead-weight head coach and things immediately, drastically, completely improve.  (And in the funniest twist of all, Jerry Jones sees the Packers go 13-3 without Mike McCarthy and decides that McCarthy is the perfect choice as the next Cowboys coach.  You can’t make this up.). I’ll also throw out a little anti-shutout to former Packers GM Ted Thompson, whose “let’s build our team almost entirely through the draft and ignore free agents” plan isn’t nearly as fun as GM Brian Gutekunst’s “hey, let’s sign Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith and run roughshod over the league” plan. 

While it’s been fun to see the Packers operate like an actual 2019-era football team, I’ll freely admit that they’re far from a perfect team.  As mentioned, every Green Bay game this year has been 25 minutes of quality and 35 minutes of hanging on for dear life.  Aaron Rodgers certainly looks to be in the B+ stage of his career, where he’ll make most of the throws, and make very few mistakes….but that’s still a step down from the vintage Rodgers who made all of the throws and no mistakes.  It would’ve been great if the Packers had a competent coach and front office* for that decade when A+ Rodgers was around, but oh well.  Time to look to the future, which hopefully includes Green Bay squeaking one out against the walking A+ known as Russell Wilson.

* = yes, I haven’t forgotten Super Bowl 45.  That was awesome.  It was also nine years ago, and one cannot help but feel the Packers left at least two more championships on the table during Rodgers’ prime.  You can’t miss that open window!  Then you’ll just ruin your glass!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

So, The Shakespeare Re-Reads...

Fans of the blog and/or literary analysis have probably noticed that I haven't posted a "Shakespeare re-read" in over two years.  The last entry was King John back in November 2017, and since I was doing the history plays in historical chronological order, the next play up in the queue was Richard II --- I've had a copy sitting on my desk, ready to roll, for the better part of those two+ years.

And yet I just never got around to it.  The original conceit of the Shakespeare re-read (which started back in 2012!) was to read all 38 plays in one year, and that quickly morphed into one play per month so I could write a post about it, and then the posts just got more and more sporadic.

And now, I'm officially called the series quits, more or less.  I ran into two notable problems with motivation...

* I felt like I was repeating myself a bit too often with the reviews, falling back on similar themes of finding the comedies mostly seeming flat on the page, and the dramas getting bogged down in plot and repetitive verse.  Maybe it was just a case of hitting a string of semi-mediocre plays all in a row, and not even Romeo & Juliet (the entry prior to King John) was enough to snap me back into it.  In hindsight, I should've planted a few more surefire favourites along the way to keep my own interest up; for instance, rather than save Hamlet for close to the end as a "big finish" type, I could've used that one as the lead-in to the history plays.

* perhaps I should've saved the history plays for last, since of the ones I read back in the day, none overly grabbed my interest.  Richard II was probably my favourite of the history plays, yet weirdly, I just didn't really have any yearning to go back to it 15 years after university.  It took me a while to even get to King John, perhaps because I was daunted already by the prospect of spending the next several months and let's be real, years writing about 10 plays that held only lukewarm appeal.  Basically, my plan to go through the history plays in one big block ended up being a trap for myself.  One exception: I've somehow never read Richard III, so I will get around to that one out of curiosity, and mayyyyybe even write about it if the mood strikes.

In short, I hope you aren't too disappointed about not getting to hear my take on, say, the Merry Wives of Windsor or anything.  I can give you a take about Windsor, Ontario if you wish (in a word: meh).  It is somewhat embarrassing to start a posting series with a clear end-date in mind and then simply halt halfway through, but perhaps consider this to be an abandoned plot.  Decades in the future, historians will discover my 21 Shakespeare re-reads and assume I wrote the others, leading those unwritten posts to be lost masterpieces.  Uh, so, let's hope they don't also find this explanatory post.

All's well that ends halfway through.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Joke Of The Year

During a discussion about bad kids' movies last night, my pal Dave cited the upcoming animated film "Spies In Disguise" but he couldn't remember the name.

Dave: It's about secret agents who transform into animals?  Will Smith is the lead character, he turns into a pigeon.

Me: Is it called 'Wild Wild Nest'?

So, with just under four hours left on the clock, I submit a very strong entry for the best one-liner of 2019.  Perhaps even the best one-liner of the entire decade....only history may decide.

Alternate joke was "I, Robin" but I think I made the right call.