Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Songs Of Experience

I wanted to give this one time, to listen to it over and over in multiple different scenarios.  There was the “get home from the record store and listen to it twice in a row, start to finish” initial rush, then I went back and re-listened to just the eight songs that were totally fresh to me, as in the ones that U2 didn’t release beforehand as singles or whatnot.  Over the next week or so, there was the “car listen,” when I had the album in my car’s CD player* for multiple days and listened to it on a stop-and-start basis.  Then there was the ‘“two-stop listen,” when I had to do a couple of chores, thus making two stops and getting to listen the whole album in one more only partially-broken up stream.  Then there was the “encore” listen of the whole thing start to finish again.  In between you also had the all-important single-track listens, when I went into the disc to seek out specific songs that caught my fancy.

* = it occurs to me that my car, a 2013 model, may be the last vehicle I ever own with an actual physical CD player installed.  Oh man that makes me feel old.

In a way, that’s actually the best way of judging an album — how many tracks can I easily bear to skip?  Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give Songs Of Experience is that, after almost two weeks of constantly listening to it, there aren’t any duds.  There are some songs I like more than others, yet there aren’t any meandering ‘album tracks’ that musicians sometimes include to ‘help the album flow better’ since they ‘couldn’t come up wth anything interesting with an actual melody or chorus.’

The flip side of this is that SOE is lacking in those singular, “this is an instant U2 classic” type of songs.  (There are two of them that immediately stand out to me at the moment, which I’ll get to soon.)  But what the record may be lacking in a high ceiling, it makes up for with the highest floor of any U2 album outside of Achtung Baby and Joshua Tree.  It’s all killer, no filler.

The track-by-track breakdown…

* Love Is All We Have Left: Okay, so I’ll instantly contradict myself by saying that both the opening and closing songs basically are “album tracks” that don’t really work in the context of stand-alone songs, but they work great as bookends for the record’s theme.  (A mediation of morality, as filtered through the idea of Bono writing the songs as letters to important people in his life after he has passed on.)  LIAWHL is basically unlike any other U2 album opener, a slow-burn autotune-heavy short number lacking in any instant build.

* Lights Of Home: Aw man, do I have to like Haim now?  Can’t I just go on recognizing them as a thoroughly unremarkable band?  Can’t I just give them credit for this one riff that the Edge sampled/borrowed as the backbone of this song and keep on ignoring them?

This is a really interesting song, since even after LIAWHL’s slow opening, you’d expect Lights Of Home to be this big-chorus classic U2-sounding type of number.  There’s certainly a big chorus and a sing-along quality, though it’s there in a way that sounds unlike pretty much anything U2 has ever done.  Of the two versions on the disc (the proper album version and then the strings version bonus track), I actually think the ideal mix has yet to be done — a version that has both the strings and the Edge busting out his acid guitar for the opening riff.  If you’ve got these big fat rock chords, no need to use the acoustic guitar, Edge…rock it up!  I realize that this could make the song sound a bit like Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, but in what world is that a bad thing?  As it is, Lights Of Home actually sounds a bit like the infamous Stand Up Comedy, which wasn’t technically a bad song but just stood out like a sore thumb on the atmosphere No Line On The Horizon album.

* You’re The Best Thing About Me: Speaking of a song that needed another mix, maybe U2 could’ve just gone with the Kygo version?  Or the “sci-fi soul mix” (available on YouTube) that smooths out the melody while keeping some electronic and beach rock flavour?  This one is pretty good yet a little frustrating in its not-quite-there nature since this feels like it might’ve been an actual massive hit for the band.  That said, wow do I ever love Edge’s vocal bridge.  That might be my single favourite moment on the entire record.

* Get Out Of Your Own Way: Probably my de facto least-favourite song on the disc, just because it really does come off as a poor man’s Beautiful Day.  It might even be a poor man’s Always, the b-side from the ATYCLB sessions that was essentially a Beautiful Day dress rehearsal.  Still, not a bad song, and it goes to what I was noting earlier about the album having a high floor.  When all you can say about the “worst” track is that is sounds like a diet Beautiful Day, that’s not exactly harsh.

* American Soul: Whereas the previous track just sounded like an old song, here U2 quite directly takes the guitar part and chorus from both Glastonbury and Volcano and re-uses it once more.  Frankly, I think it works better here than in either of those previous songs.  I do enjoy how U2 took probably the two weakest tracks on Songs Of Innocence (Volcano and Song For Someone) and reworked them into superior versions on Songs Of Experience.  Awesome work from Larry and Adam in the rhythm section here, really driving this song and giving it the urgency that Volcano lacked.

* Summer Of Love: A complete classic.  Such a beautiful song, with a deceptively-casual beach vibe laid over a serious message about the Syrian refugee crisis.  I try to avoid U2 album reviews since they’re almost uniformly terribly misguided or loaded with bias, but I can’t help but note that several reviewers had an instant “Bono + politics = vomit emoji” reaction to this track.  These people, better known as morons, would also fall all over themselves in praising a modern musician if they were capable of making such a political statement within the context of a pop song.  I don’t want to say that all of U2’s critics are ageist fools, but maybe, 92% of them?  Fun fact: Lady Gaga does backup vocals on this song yet is almost invisible within the vocal mix.  U2 had three major star cameos (Gaga, Haim, Kendrick Lamar) on this record yet reduced them to just imperceptible backup vocals and a tacked-on spoken word intro.  There are no “feat.” credits in U2’s world!

* Red Flag Day: The political argument redux, as it’s a “baby, let’s get in the water” laid-back chorus about….Syrian refugees preferring to take their chances trying to survive swimming in the Mediterranean Sea rather than stay in their war-torn homeland.  U2 turning the entire idea of a beach album on its head is one of the more creative ideas the band has ever done.  This song has the vibe of a War-era protest song made with modern sounds.

* The Showman (Much More Better): U2 at their most casual and least-insistent upon themselves, which is a look that the band doesn’t often pull off to great effect.  It’s funny to me that U2 has this image of being a pompous band, when they literally can’t get through an interview without making fun of a) each other, or b) the entire idea of U2, or c) the entire idea of being in a band itself.  This doesn’t always translate well to actual songs, however, like how U2’s attempts at creating light, throwaway pop-rock numbers often sound like the most laboured songs on any album.  But, not Showman!  Dare I say it sounds a bit like Billy Joel?  Is it weird to write a whole “hey, it’s not pompous!” paragraph and then compare the song to Billy Joel’s work?

* The Little Things That Give You Away: Classic #2.  It’s funny, when I first heard the song so many months ago when U2 surprisingly busted out a brand new song on the Joshua Tree tour, I liked TLTTYA but literally said “if it’s the best song on the album, that’s probably not a good sign.”  Well, now I think it is the best song on the album, and it’s a great sign.  I can tell why the band chose this one for the live debut —it’s a great somber, reflection of the album’s dark themes yet it builds into that climax that can only be described as the vintage U2 sound.  Within the context of Bono’s yet-unexplained health scare from two years, this song can be summed up as “life is so full of uncertainty, yet ultimately, all we can be is ourselves, U2, and that’s good enough…sometimes.”  I’m torn as to whether I prefer the keyboard version on the album to the piano version from the live performances.

* Landlady: Another song that seems like a beefed-up version of an older track, this one “Promenade” from the Unforgettable Fire album.  Whereas Promenade was gorgeously incomplete, Landlady feels a bit too overstuffed (Bono could’ve used a word or two fewer in every verse) but it also kind of fits the idea that Bono is just overflowing with love for his wife.  The title refers to how Bono’s wife was both literally his landlady in that she paid the bills when they were young so Bono could focus on the band, and also she’s his “land lady” in the sense that she keeps him grounded.  I must admit, this is a lovely song and it’s a delightful sentiment, but out of context, that whole explanation strikes me as hilarious.  Like the Oscar Wilde sketch from Monty Python, it’s like Bono was put on the spot to explain something nonsensical.  “Hey honey, I wrote a song about you, it’s called Landlady!”  “Wait, what?  Why is that the title?”  “Uh…well, you see….um, it’s because…you keep…me…grounded?”  “Is there a line in there about me paying the rent?”  “For sure.”  “You know that the landlady is the one that takes the rent, not pays it, right?”  “See, this is why you were in charge of the finances!  When I try to handle money, I end up owing back tax in Lithuanian shopping malls.”

* The Blackout: Given how the rest of the album sounds, Blackout really should stand out more than it does as a weird oddball of a track, yet it fits pretty well.  I’m not sure I’d put it right here in my ideal SOE track listing, but I’m also not sure where else you can slot it elsewhere.  It might be kind of a late wakeup-call kind of number — it’s fun song about being in a band, powerful number about overcoming fear, love song about the wife, and then boom, dance-rock number about how the world’s going to hell.  Nobody gets off easy!  Another great Adam Clayton bass line here.

* Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way: This is the one that took the most listens for me.  At first, it was like “who put this Killers b-side on the U2 album?” and now I find myself humming the chorus and/or the lyric in the bridge about Killiney Bay.  Dare I say that this will be the closer for the Experience & Innocence Tour, or will they go with TLTTGYA again?  Weirdly, I can also see this song not being played live at all, since I feel it’d be hell on Bono’s voice to do it night after night.

* 13 (There Is A Light): The other good bookend, and I do wonder if I’d like this more as a song unto itself if I’d never heard Song For Someone.  13 drains all of the syrup from the original and just retains its nice melodic spine.

BONUS TRACKS!  For the first time in a long while, U2 apparently relegate one of the sessions’ best songs to b-side status, as “Book Of Your Heart” is nothing special.  I think it actually was no better than the 14th-best song that U2 came up with during recording.  It’s kind of an Unforgettable Fire/Joshua Tree-type of atmospheric song, so I’m sure some probably love it, though those tracks (the Boomerang II or Deep In The Heart kind of stuff) never did anything for me……I’ve already discussed the Kygo YTBTAM remix and the strings version of Lights Of Home….the SOE tracks seem so well-connected that having Ordinary Love in here really makes it seem out of place.  This mix of Ordinary Love is the best of the bunch, though it doesn’t fix the song’s biggest issue, which is that it seems one verse and one bridge short.  I get the feeling that U2 really like this track and think of it as something of a missed opportunity, and the Edge will put it through a million mixes until he’s satisfied.

So that’s Songs Of Experience.  It was well worth the wait, even if I did have to pay for this one and not get it for free.  I was getting used to this whole iTunes sudden release thing!*  It’s too early to say where I rank this one within U2’s discography, since the lack of true standout individual tracks may keep it from the top five.  But I’m certainly open to hearing an argument for it being #6 at worst, since it is just so deep in quality music.  It’s a wonderful artistic statement about mortality and remembrance from a band that is over 40 years deep into its career and is, quite logically, now taking some looks back at themselves.

* = part of me wishes U2 and Apple had released this album into everyone’s iTunes again, just as a complete troll move to bask in everyone’s outrage.  

The music, however, is not.  It’s easy to criticize U2 for being too open to exploring fresh sounds rather than just rely on their classic chiming guitar rock, though if they did the latter, then The Band That Can’t Win No Matter What They Do would be criticized just as much for repeating themselves.  On this album literally all about life experience, U2 touches on their past for song structures or ideas that breathes new life into them.  It’d be one thing if they were rehashing their hits (uh, ignore that whole “GOOYOW is like Beautiful Day” thing!) but if you told me that U2 was presenting re-imagined versions of the likes of Volcano, Promenade, Song For Someone, Stand Up Comedy, and maybe even a touch of A Man And A Woman in Summer Of Love…man, that’s just fascinating.

Also, yikes, I’m glad Bono didn’t die two years ago.  I kind of don’t want to know any more details about that situation, other than to just be thankful that he’s alive and well.  To be clear, this is apparently a separate incident than his infamous Central Park bike accident, which left him “only” badly injured.  What a run of bad luck for this poor guy.  Beyond his loving family, the iconic music career and the millions of dollars, Bono simply can’t catch a break.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Red Rise

Winning a league title in just 11 years of existence, even in a smaller league like MLS, is still a pretty good achievement on paper.  There are multiple clubs, in fact, that have yet to win the MLS Cup despite being in the league since day one — let’s all give a big LOL to the New England Revolution, FC Dallas, and the New York City Red Bulls.

But for Toronto FC, that 11 years just seemed way longer.  The club packed about 50 years of incompetence and drama into that first eight seasons of non-playoff soccer, with coaching changes and roster shakeups and the losing, the losing, my god, the losing!  It was just over three years ago that TFC went through the ‘bloody big deal’ nonsense with Jermain Defoe and yet another fired head coach in Ryan Nelsen, which once again seemed to put the team back at square one.

This time, however, things were different.  Toronto had one actual proper building block in place (Michael Bradley) and then replaced Defoe’s zero-cares-given and Gilberto’s unspectacular decentness with two Designated Players that proceeded to blow the doors off the league (Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore).  Around these cornerstones, TFC then acquired actual talented secondary players that didn’t require the stars to carry the entire team.  I realize that I’m simplifying the failures of the first eight years but man, this doesn’t have to be rocket science.  Once you achieve basic tasks like, say, hiring a GM and coach who don’t hate each other, or hiring a GM that hasn’t alienated half the coach, or hiring a coach that knows the rules of MLS, it tends to make things a bit easier on yourself.

Even after getting on track, I must admit to be being constantly surprised by TFC’s rise from “hey, they’re finally pretty decent” to “wow, they’re really good” to “wait, is this the best team in MLS history?!”  TFC, when at full strength, was just destroying teams all season long.  Even at less than 100%, they still usually managed to win, which was a key difference from the house-of-cards rosters from years past. 

It all culminated in last Saturday’s MLS Cup final, when Toronto FC pretty much dominated the Seattle Sounders from start to finish, totally erasing their bitter loss to Seattle in last year’s Cup final.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a sporting crowd roar as they did when Altidore scored what was eventually the game-winning goal — the pavilion was literally shaking.  It was 11 years of frustration* coming out in one kick of the ball.

* = not to mention another MLS Cup final of frustration, given how Stefan Frei had been absolutely standing on his head to hold TFC scoreless and keep the overmatched Sounders in the game. 

So now Toronto FC has finally become the “sleeping giant” that so many people predicted the franchise would become if it ever got a clue.  Huge financial resources, a rabid fanbase, sold-out crowds, and the all-important winning culture in place…the sky is really the limit now.  It is very difficult to build a dynasty in as parity-driven a league as MLS, yet the Reds are in excellent shape for the coming years.

To be fair, eight straight MLS Cups is probably overcompensating for the eight losing seasons to begin the franchise’s history.  Can’t hurt to try, right?

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Forever Queue

There are 37 items in my Netflix queue, and it’s beginning to dawn on me that this list will never, ever be empty.  It will take significant work for it to ever drop into the 20-25 range.  I could be technical about this, and develop a strict viewing schedule (at least one item every one or two days until everything is complete), though even this has tons of complications.  Even my schedule doesn’t allow for THIS much viewing….especially since I have so many other things to watch on normal TV.  Plus, you know, life and stuff.  On top of that, several of the items here are shows rather than movies, in some cases programs with multiple seasons of content; I can’t just rifle through those when I have a spare 90 minutes to kill one night.

Some positives…

* seven of the items are films I’ve seen before but haven’t watched in years.  So technically, I don’t pressingly *need* to watch them again, and could delete them if I really wanted to make a serious queue purge.  A couple of the movies I actually own on DVD, in case I ever wanted to go old school and see if the DVD player in my parents’ basement still works properly.

* I’ve gotten much less tolerant of stuff that fails to capture my interest within the first, say, 20 minutes.  Sometimes it’s simply a slow-moving program, sometime I can immediately tell it’s not very good, or something it’s just something that I “get” quickly and realize that I don’t need to see any more of it.  For instance, the pilot of Lemony Snicket’s Series Of Unfortunate Events was quite well done and entertaining, yet that single episode totally filled my appetite for anything Lemony-related.  It could be that when I sit down and check out some of these other items on the list, I’ll check out just as quickly, thus opening my schedule to watch something else and perhaps knock out two queue entries in a single evening.

One lesson I’ve learned in clearing out a queue is to always focus on the non-original programming first.  Netflix will have its own content available forever; it might only have a certain movie or show for a few months, and since there’s no set schedule for when that program might disappear, it’s best to watch it ASAP.

Maybe the other lesson was that online streaming is just overwhelming.  I pitched the idea of getting my folks a Netflix account but they turned down the offer since, to quote my dad, “there’s just too much.”  I think my folks like getting a weekly dose of a single episode of one of their favourite shows rather than binging a season at a time, and then another season, and then another show, and so on and so forth.  Once you get into that habit, that’s how you rack up 37 shows with no end in sight.  Like a fool!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Smooth $20

There we were, four guys fresh out of high school, let loose in Montreal’s world-class nightlife.  We were just days away from starting university and the next stage of our lives, so what better time for one boys’ trip to La Belle Province for a few days of wild tomfoolery.  On our very first night in town, a tip from our hotel’s concierge led us to standing in line at one of the city’s hottest nightspots…

…okay, I’ll add in the corrections now.  The “hottest nightspot” was basically just a pub.  A busy pub, but a pub nonetheless.  And rather than a night of clubbing and bottle service, we were going to see a WWE pay-per-view.  (This was so many years ago that it was actually a ‘WWF’ pay-per-view, in fact.)  I’ll give it to that concierge, however — the man was a total pro.  A good concierge has to be prepared to find any information for any guest, so even when four dorky teenagers ask you if any local bars are showing Summerslam, you need to be at the ready.

So with information in hand, there we were at the bar.  It was a packed house, possibly due in part to the wrestling (2000 was more or less the height of modern WWF/WWE popularity) and also due to it being just a weekend in Montreal.  We were facing a long line just to get into the place, and the show was just minutes from starting.  What to do, what to do.

Picture it: 18-year-old Mark, on a big-city trip with his buddies, feeling like a true big shot.  I had some cash in hand thanks to a good summer of tips from my pizza delivery job, and it was burning a hole in my pocket.  Rather than actually spend the money inside the bar, however, I would go one further.

“Hold my spot,” I said to my friends in line,* as I stepped out to approach the doorman.  There were actually two doormen, one at the bar’s entrance itself and one sort of halfway on the landing facing the sidewalk, keeping general surveillance of the line and crowd.  It was this second guy who I approached, since he seemingly had more of an air of being in charge.  Anyone can open a door and check IDs, but surely the more experienced head bouncer would have the more difficult task of surveying an entire section of public street.

* = this was pretty needless since, duh, of course they’d watch my spot.  I was in their group.  They weren’t just going to abandon me.  I definitely lost that round of “did this need to be said?”

I sidled up to him, though in a completely non-threatening way.  (Not a good idea to just sidle up to a bouncer out of his blind spot, lest one wants a punch in the stomach.)  I leaned in and said something to the effect of “hey, is there anything you can do to get my friends and I in a bit quicker?” while slipping him a $20 bill with a casual handshake.

Of the all-time self-satisfied moments in my life, this had to be top ten.  Here I was in Montreal, going to a bar, seeing a line, thinking “not today,” and then slipping the doorman a few bucks to let us leave the rest of the plebeians behind, waiting like suckers.  I even removed the twenty before even leaving the line in the first place, then palmed it and coolly passed it to the doorman without even making eye contact.  This was before Ocean’s Eleven was released, so George Clooney was still mostly just the guy from ER and a series of largely unsuccessful films…and so at this moment, I was clearly cooler than Clooney in my own mind.  ‘Out Of Sight’ notwithstanding.

The bouncer accepted the bill, glanced at the door and said he’d see what he could do.  I said thanks with all the sincerity my virtual-adult voice could muster, and strolled back to my friends in line, ready to accept plaudits as the coolest man in Montreal…

…only to see them on the way into the bar, along with basically the rest of the line.  You see, while I was busy being Mr. Smooth, a group of at least 30 people all exited the pub en masse.  It was clearly some huge party that was letting out, and thus the bar went from standing-room-only to “no, actually, quite a fair amount of space.”  We ended up getting a prime table to watch the matches, even.  I don’t totally recall the bar being too packed the rest of the evening, so it could be that the entire line was seated at that very moment, and, if anything, it was kind of an average Sunday night in terms of business for the pub.

The moral of the story is, when you’re going to slip the bouncer a $20, maybe make *entirely* certain that the line isn’t moving.  Maybe wait a bit longer than, say, five minutes before deciding that the wait is interminable.  Also, maybe make sure you’re actually “flush with cash” before just giving away twenty bucks when you’re an 18-year-old dolt, since I think I had barely enough still on me to cover my bill.  Really, giving the guy $10 probably would’ve been sufficient. 

But still, after this first night, the REST of the trip….oh ho ho ho, now THOSE were some real crazy adventures….

…or, we just went to see baseball games every other night and were always in bed by midnight since the long subway ride from the Big O tends to just suck the life out of you.  It’s times like this, as I dangerously approach middle age, that I realize that I’ve basically been middle-aged my whole life.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Jeffpardy!

I once applied to be on Jeopardy and made it through the audition process, though I was never selected to be on the actual show.  Probably should've changed my name.

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?

Friday, November 24, 2017

Wedding Social Media Etiquette

For years now, my go-to Facebook move for friends getting married is to post the "Somebody's Getting Married" number from The Muppets Take Manhattan on their walls on their wedding day.  It seemed like a fun and fitting thing to do, plus anything that helps people remember the vastly-underrated TMTM* just seems proper.

* = I watched this movie at least 100 times as a kid, to the point that it probably influenced everything I know about New York City and/or staging plays.  Also, my cousin and her husband bear a strong resemblance to the young couple that fall in love in this movie, so maybe it influenced them as well.

Anyway, it has been mentioned to me that posting this video is a mistake, as it implies a connection between the bride-to-be and Miss Piggy.  I should note that this criticism came from a third party -- the video has never been welcomed with anything but 'likes' by the actual couples themselves, as far as I know.  Frankly, I think the criticism isn't warranted.  Firstly, my sheer laziness in posting the same video for EVERY couple should be evidence enough that I'm not making some snide sub-tweet comparison of one particular bride and some vain swine.  Secondly, I can deal out sarcastic jabs with the best of them, but I'm not the kind of monster that would bust out, "hey, you're basically a pig or a neurotic frog!" on one's wedding day.  Thirdly, who's to say that being compared to Miss Piggy is even an insult?  Pop culture icon!

I feel I'm totally in the right here. 

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.