Friday, February 24, 2017

Adjacent To Heroism

Back in my younger days, I spent a summer working at Storybook Gardens, the most magical place on Earth (citation required).  For non-Londoners, Storybook is a kids’ theme park with a general “based on nursery rhymes” gimmick, and it has been a staple of southern Ontario tourism for decades.

My twin jobs were to a) operate the merry-go-round and b) dress up in a makeshift old-timey conductor’s uniform to run the “Storybook Express” train (a.k.a. a glorified riding lawnmower) around the park.  While mostly fun, there were certainly a few days when the hot summer sun became a bit much, or the kids crossed the line from “aw, how adorable” to “horrific little monsters,” or the dang Storybook Express malfunctioned mid-ride and I had to stand there amidst the goose crap* while a technician re-connected the whatever to the thing-a-ma-bob.

* = there’s probably no metric to measure this, but I would bet cash money that Canada geese see Springbank Park as the world’s single biggest toilet.  The sheer volume of geese generates an unholy amount of goose feces, and while “geese feces” is fun to say, it’s less fun to scrape off your boots.

So needless to say, Mark enjoyed his breaks.  If I recall correctly, it was 30 minutes of breaktime that I used to either grab a bite to eat, or just outright take a nap in the employee break room.  Like I said, some of those summer days were awfully warm.  Plus, my shifts started early.  Plus, I’m lazy!

One day, however, I was actually well-rested and just using my break to get lunch.  I grabbed a slice of pizza and a soda from one of the park’s food booths and was headed back to the break room to eat.  Thanks to a long line and the lack of an “employees can cut in front” policy,* I was running short on time before my shift resumed.  Still, I wasn’t sweating the clock too much until The Incident occurred.

* = I mean, come on, people.  I’ve been working all day to provide you and your bratty children with magical storybook enjoyment!  I shouldn’t have to wait for pizza!  Outta the way!

Like park employee both new and old, I was required to take a basic first aid course as part of my training.  While this is unquestionably a logical thing to learn, I certainly approached that course as just another step in the process rather than something that would need to be crucially important at some point.  Given my day-to-day duties, learning basic first aid was likely not going to be as utilized nearly as regularly as, say, learning how to reconnect the whatever to the Storybook Express.  (Man, I should’ve paid more attention during that lawnmower maintenance seminar.)  So sure, while it was handy to know, the first aid stuff didn’t seem to be too critical…

…UNTIL IT WAS.  About 30 yards away from where I was standing, pizza in hand, a little girl seemed to be choking.  Her parents were visibly concerned and her dad had kind of a makeshift Heimlich maneuver going, but his form wasn’t as measured as the proper style I’d learned just weeks before from a trained medical professional.  So clearly, it was my time to intercede.  I tossed my pizza and soda literally on the ground and began a sprint towards the scene.

And then after I’d run about ten yards, the little girl stopped choking.  Whatever it was she’d had trouble swallowing, it was now dislodged and she was totally fine.  She hugged her dad and went about merrily playing like nothing had happened.  By the time I actually made it to them, the family almost seemed surprised to see me.  “Oh, thanks for asking!  She’s fine, no problem, yadda yadda yadda.”  I considered giving the father a few pointers on proper Heimlich technique but whatever, his method was also effective.  He just never had the idea to hype it up like Henry Heimlich did.

On the grand scale, tragedy was averted.  On a lesser scale, my stomach was in peril since my lunch was ruined.  I’m not one to litter, though I didn’t want to take an extra five seconds to properly dispose of my food since time was seemingly of the essence.  Rushing to help a choking kid is well worth some soda on the ground, no question.  Likewise, I didn’t want to carefully just put it on the ground or something since, again, that would’ve taken some time and even if it’s carefully placed, it’s still on the ground.  As my personal motto goes, If Food Is On The Ground, Don’t Swallow It Down.  Plus, I’d left that pizza and soda unattended for a few minutes.  What if a bird had momentarily swooped down to peck at it, and then I’d eaten the slice none the wiser and contracted avian flu?  What if I’d set the slice down in a pile of geese feces (again, this crap was everywhere)?  Once that food left my hands, for all intents and purposes, it was garbage. 

Still, every legendary act of heroism requires some level of sacrifice from the hero.  Clearly, my brief mad dash towards an easily-averted problem counted as such capital-H Heroism.  In giving up that pizza and pop, I was hungry for three more hours.  That’s right, three!  It’s a wonder I didn’t waste away right there next to the carousel.  That was a full, nutritious lunch (uh, citation required) and the four dollars it cost to buy that lunch just tossed away without a thought, since a life needed saving. 

Well done, me.  Kudos, self.  It was right then and there, as I was catching my breath since I was inexplicably winded after running ten measly yards, that I knew that my legend would one day echo through the Springbank woods like the stories of Paul Bunyan.  And really, what did Paul Bunyan do besides be enormous and swing a mean axe?  Did he take a 90-minute first aid course?  Hell no!  Did he know the whole thing about timing chest compressions along with the beat of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive”?  Doubtful.  I wonder if Bunyan was familiar any of the Gibb brothers’ work.

It’s probably for the best that I didn’t ask the choking girl’s father for four bucks in compensation.  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Hot! Live! Bruuuuuusic!

Dancing In The Dark
Okay, well, this is impressive and all, but MY last Mother's Day present involved a gift card at the Keg.  Take that, Bruce.  Anyone can dance with their mom (and sister) in front of thousands of people, but is that as good as a delicious steak?  The jury is still out!  Good thing for the video title, or else I'd just assume that Courteney Cox had aged horribly. 

Born In The USA (the whole album)
And hey, why stop at DitD when you realize that Bruce played the entire Born In The USA album during this concert?!  I dig the growing trend of an artist randomly playing one of their full records (or advertising it in advance, like U2's new Joshua Tree tour or Bruce's own recent River tour), and I enjoyed it myself when I got to see Pearl Jam play, of all things, Binaural start to finish.  Since BitU is one of my desert-island records, I would've been going bonkers realizing that Bruce was really doing the whole thing.  Bonkers, I tell you!

Tunnel Of Love
Aw man, I should've called this post 'Tunnel Of Live.'  Maybe I'll save it for my post all about live versions of Lightning Crashes, I Alone, The Dolphin's Cry, etc.  Expect that one to show up around 2059.

You Never Can Tell
I'm willing to accept that this isn't exactly the most complicated song to figure out on the fly, though I will NOT accept that this was a pre-arranged bit.  The E Street Band has too much integrity for that.  I've also seen Little Steven act before, and I don't think he could pretend to look quite that confused, so this seems legit.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Movie Reviewz

The Founder took kind of an interesting tack to differ from a lot of biopics.  It’s about 30% “the McDonald brothers were too small-time, and it took Ray Kroc’s vision to make McDonalds what it is,” and 70% “man, Ray Kroc was an ass.”  Sticking with the percentages, Michael Keaton played Kroc as a 33.3% split of Beetlejuice, Gil from the Simpsons and Dan Aykroyd’s character in Tommy Boy.  It was an okay movie and, admittedly, a pretty effective subliminal advertisement for McDonalds.  By the time it was over, I was starving for a burger. 


I was starving for Kleenex after seeing A Monster Calls since, after many years, we have another addition to the list of Movies That Made Mark Cry.  The others are…

1. E.T The Extra-Terrestrial, the scene when it looks like E.T. has died.  Eight-year-old Mark bought that one hook, line and sinker.

2. Rudy, the whole end sequence when Rudy finally gets to play.  This whole movie is corny as hell, but shut up!  I remember watching this with my family when I was a kid and we were all bawling.  Even watching it today, I get fired up by Jerry Goldsmith’s legendary score.

3. Up, the first 15 minutes.  Aside from possibly the ending of Old Yeller (which I’ve never seen), this very well might be the single most tear-inducing sequence in movie history.  I’ve never been in a theatre audience where virtually everyone was openly crying at the same time.*  And to have that sequence OPEN UP THE MOVIE?  That’s some sort of evil Pixar genius.  It just gut-punches you right from the get-go.

* = well, except for walking out of Batman vs. Superman.  “Why did we spend our money on that?  Wahhhhhh!”

Honourable mention: Rocky’s “my whole life is behind me” monologue in Creed, which had 39 years of movie history behind it and the single-best acting of Sly Stallone’s career.  I found myself getting a little misty-eyed but didn’t cry outright, so it didn’t quite count.

And now, there’s A Monster Calls, which is not a great movie overall but is basically specifically designed to make you weep.  It is impossible to watch the ending sequence with Felicity Jones in the hospital without thinking of one of your own loved ones.  Do not watch this one without a healthy amount of tissues nearby, or else you’ll have to use your popcorn bag like I did.  The butter burned my eyes! 


Spoilers ahead!

The twist ending of Split is technically not really a twist ending.  I mean, it does take place during the credits, after all; you can watch the entire movie proper and enjoy it as a stand-alone entity.  If anything, I was more impressed by M. Night Shyamalan’s very effective red herring of a twist — when we got the reveal of Kevin’s last name as ‘Crumb,’ I was fully expecting to learn that Casey’s name was actually K.C. and she (and everyone else in the film) was just another one of Kevin’s personalities.  This isn’t an uncommon twist ending for any multiple-personality storyline, so I was preparing myself to be disappointed having “figured it out,” only to be delighted at the actual final twist in the credits.

And hey, let’s give it up to Shyamalan for regaining some of his mojo.  That guy was in the tailspin of tailspins but this movie was legitimately good and “The Visit” even got some good reviews.  This could be a bigger comeback than Cavaliers/Warriors if Shyamalan is able to get back on track as a quality filmmaker.  Maybe it’ll take a full-fledged Unbreakable sequel to get it done.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Paris, Last Century

From the Paris 1914 project (tip of the cap to the io9 website), we have this collection of colour photographs from Paris between 1907-1930.  If this doesn't make you want to drop everything and fly to France, I'm not sure what will....barring, y'know, a lack of money or free time.  I truly must visit Paris some time, as it is not only one of the world's great cities, but it's also my well-traveled parents' absolute favourite place to visit.  I once walked in on my dad watching Taken, and asked him if he would ever go on a rampage to save me if I was ever kidnapped by international sex slavery ring, and he happily said, "Sure!  Any excuse to go to Paris!"  That is some top-quality parenting right there.  I can only hope he would save the sightseeing until after I'd been rescued.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


While washing my hands in a McDonald's washroom today, an old guy walked in and began (unprompted) to talk at length about his recent prostate surgery.  So, my Valentine's Day could've been better.  I need some Outkast and Bruce to ease the pain!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Worst Movies Of 2016

Of all the dozens of films I watched in 2016, these were the bottom dozen.  Some outright terrible, a few more ‘really disappointing’ than bad due to higher expectations, but all in all, twelve movies you can feel safe in avoiding for the rest of your life.

12. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice….As I wrote last March, the last hour or so of this movie is a legitimately entertaining battle, culminating in the cool moment of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all teaming up to take on Doomsday.  “But Mark,” you might ask, “if you enjoyed a whole hour of the movie, why does it still make your bottom 12?”  Because, hypothetical strawman question-asker, everything before that last hour was complete and total garbage.

11. Central Intelligence….Perhaps an important moment in cinema history, as it could mark the dual moment that both Kevin Hart and the Rock’s acts both started wearing thin at the same time.

10. Jason Bourne….In a way I feel like this film should be higher (lower?) on the list since it’s certainly the most pointless movie of 2016.  I think humanity as a whole had comfortably moved on from the Bourne franchise, with even the returns of Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass not enough to rouse much interest.  This was less a movie than it was a set of Jason Bourne madlibs.  “Bourne gets into a big chase in LAS VEGAS.  The word ‘Treadstone’ is mentioned SEVENTY-ONE times.”
9. I Saw The Light….Tom Hiddleston plays Hank Williams in a retread of every musical biopic you’ve ever seen.  Get this, as Hank becomes more famous, he starts to lose sight of his family!  And he develops a bad drinking problem!  This is completely unexplored territory!  I mean come on, “Walk Hard” already mocked all these cliches into the ground ten years ago.  All this was missing was a scene where Hank has a dream about his brother being cut in half.  It’s amazing that Hiddleston dated Taylor Swift and that somehow was only the second-most joyless country music-related experience of his year.

8. Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates….Make no mistake, this is a very bad movie.  It does, however, have one scene that admittedly made me laugh, involving Kumail Nanjiani as a very thorough masseur.  I went to see Nanjiani perform a standup show a few months ago and, during his audience Q&A section, I almost considered asking him about this scene.  I ultimately decided against it for multiple reasons, including the fact that I didn’t want to admit to a crowded auditorium that I’d actually seen this film.

7. London Has Fallen….Your typical brainless action movie, made all the more brainless by the fact that the heroes win just about the most pyrrhic victory possible.  It’s one of those “well, the terrorists caused untold damage and killed several world leaders in an event that surely caused incalculable global political damage, but the main good guys survived, so yay, happy ending?!” types of movies.  If you’re upset at me for more or less spoiling the plot of London Has Fallen for you, then you need to get out more.

6. Masterminds….This one only ranks sixth on the master list, but #1 in the sub-category of Completely Unfunny Comedy Starring The Most Comic Actors Who Mark Usually Finds Hilarious.  The general rule of thumb for Zach Galifianakis is that he’s funny in any role aside from the “emasculated southern man” character that he insists on shoehorning into basically everything he does.
5. It’s Only The End Of The World….Speaking of actors I like in bad movies, this one has Marion “Mark’s Favourite Actor” Cotillard and it’s STILL in the bottom five.  This film seems like it’s always a hair away from becoming a spoof of a family melodrama where everyone is either openly yelling at each other or having emotionally-loaded conversations, except no, it’s actually just a family melodrama where everyone is either openly yelling at each other or having emotionally-loaded conversations.  Virtually the entire film is shot in closeups or medium closeups, to boot, since Xavier Dolan is a lousy director wants to make things as uncomfortable as possible for the audience. 

4. Demolition….With a nod to Peter Griffin’s review/dismissal of The Godfather, ”it insists upon itself” is easily the Family Guy line I use the most often in day-to-day life.  It is also the subject of another sub-category, the “Insists Upon Itself” award for movie that is way too impressed with its own pretensions.  I’m shocked that IOTEOTW didn’t take this award since Xavier Dolan probably has “Insists Upon Itself” tattooed across his chest, but Dolan didn’t reckon on a Jake Gyllenhaal movie where Jake mourns his dead wife by breaking things and writing customer complaint letters about a vending machine.  I was bitterly disappointed that this wasn’t a biopic about the old WWF tag team champions, with Gyllenhaal playing Ax and Naomi Watts playing Smash.

3. Suicide Squad….Whereas the studio heads behind the DC Comics movie universe can’t help micro-managing films about Batman and Superman, the thought was maybe they’d leave the lower-tier characters of the Suicide Squad alone and actually let the movie be good?  Oh, what a naive thought that was.  David Ayer has made good films before (Fury, End Of Watch) but he should be embarrassed for having directed such a sloppy movie.  From the editing to the terrible acting* to the incoherent story, this was honestly one of most amateurish movies I’ve ever seen.  It’s very easy to pile on the nonstop dreadfulness that is the DC Comics movie universe, but remember this, I was a childhood comic book nerd.  I *want* these movies to be good.  Why does DC insist on making this so hard?   

* = Margot Robbie seems to have escaped criticism but I include her in the ‘terrible acting’ category as well.  I’m not sure what character she was playing, but it wasn’t Harley Quinn.

2. Dirty Grandpa….In case you thought “Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates” was going to be the only raunchy comedy on this list starring Zac Efron and Aubrey Plaza, think again.  This is less a comedy than it is humanity crying for help.  This film is the alpha and the omega of the “Anything For A Paycheque” era of Robert De Niro’s career.  The biggest laugh I got from this movie was my buddy Dave telling me he watched it with his parents. 

1. The Bronze….I thought about ranking this as the #3 movie just for the “Bronze in third place” joke but I can’t help but think that Dirty Grandpa and Suicide Squad are slightly better movies.  Just look at that sentence: “Dirty Grandpa and Suicide Squad are slightly better movies.”  I never thought I’d write such a thing but, here we are.

This might be the least-known entry on the list, so here’s a recap of the premise.  Imagine if Kerri Strug was a terrible person and had been leaching off her fame for the last 20 years.  End premise.  This is thin gruel for satire, and The Bronze manages to make the least of it.  It’s one of those jokeless comedies that is so convinced that its premise is so inherently funny that it doesn’t feel the need to stoop to actually getting laughs.  It’s 90 minutes of Melissa Rauch acting like the worst person on earth before a (spoiler alert) Mr. Burns-style change of heart has her back in everyone’s good graces by the movie’s end.

Acting awards!

Worst Actor: Robert De Niro, Dirty Grandpa
Worst Actress: Melissa Rauch, The Bronze
Worst Supporting Actress: Nathalie Baye/It’s Only The End Of The World
Worst Supporting Actor: Jesse Eisenberg/Batman vs. Superman
Worst Supporting Actor: Jesse Eisenberg/Batman vs. Superman…this wasn’t a mistaken duplicate, I just think Eisenberg was so bad that he deserves two awards.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Chicken Family

When I was a little kid, my family went to upstate New York once for one of my brother’s hockey tournaments.  We’re all staying in a little motel on a Saturday afternoon, nothing to do but watch local TV, which is always amazing.  Between cheesy low-budget ads to really esoteric topics* on the area news, nothing beats local TV.

* = "Mrs. Gertrude Johnson scored four bingos in a row at the church’s local bingo night!  Those in attendance…were impressed!"

I’m like eight or nine years old at this point, so I’m watching cartoons.  And all throughout the afternoon, the station kept running promos for the fact that Looney Tunes was coming up at 4pm.  Like, it was clearly a BIG DEAL for this station had the rights to Looney Tunes or something, or else they saw him as the absolute staple of its Saturday afternoon TV block.  I have no idea about syndication costs or if it really was impressive that this little small-town station scraped together enough cash to pay for the rights to these cartoons, but honestly, eight-year-old me wasn’t impressed.  It’s like fine, Bugs Bunny, we get it.  Could we not have a promo pop up on the screen every five minutes to remind me of a program coming up three hours from now?  It’s interfering with my Transformers-watching.

And those promos, I remember them to this day.  One of them, especially, I remember to this day.  They all had a gimmick related to different Looney Tunes characters.  Like, it’d be a picture of Sylvester with the caption "The Cat Family," and another caption saying "Looney Tunes at 4pm, sufferin’ succotash!"  Or it’d be Bugs Bunny and "The Rabbit Family — Looney Tunes at 4pm, don’t go any-hare!"  Pepe Le Pew and "The Skunk Family — Looney Tunes at 4pm, you’d have to be a stinker to change that channel!"  On and on like this for every character in the Looney Tunes family.

But, the one I distinctly remember was the Foghorn Leghorn promo.  It was, and I quote, “The Chicken Family — Looney Tunes at 4pm, you won’t be able to finger yourself away from the TV!

Even at age eight, I knew something was a bit off about that one.  "Finger yourself away from the TV…" isn’t a normal human phrase.  That’s not something people say.  Outside of the term we’re all thinking, the only other uses for ‘fingering’ in any context are piano-playing, pickpocketing, and identifying someone in a police lineup.  The promo used in the context of removing oneself or preventing oneself from doing something, which makes no sense.  Have you ever heard someone say "I left a steak on the counter and my dog was headed right for it, but fortunately I was able to finger him away in time."

All of the other puns were pretty straight-forward, whereas this one seemed a bit too laboured.  It had all the makings of a promo guy trying to fit a dirty joke in there and then explaining to his boss, "No no, it’s about chicken fingers!  Foghorn Leghorn, obviously, he’s a chicken.  You can make chicken fingers out of him!  Don’t you see?!"

More and more people are cutting the cord these days or avoiding TV altogether, which is a shame since we always need local stations.  Where else will you find out how the local high school football team did, or who’s running for mayor, or what this summer’s big musical at the local theatre is, or, sure, even how Gertrude did at bingo night?  In losing local TV, we lose the incredible unintentional comedy (or, in this case, come on-that’s-gotta-be-intentional comedy) of local TV.

The promo is even funnier, by, the way, if you read it in Foghorn Leghorn’s voice.  Admittedly, everything is funnier if you read in Foghorn Leghorn's voice.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe

Some thirty-odd years ago, Werner Herzog told fellow filmmaker Errol Morris that if Morris got his documentary "Gates Of Heaven" made, Herzog would eat his shoe. Well, sure enough, Morris got his movie made, and Herzog was a man of his word.  A short film was made detailing this wager, which I highly recommend watching.

Highlights include Herzog...

* ...wanting to declare actual war on commercials. As in taking a crew of soldiers and invading, like, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
* ...showing up in America looking like a cross between Gene Hackman and Borat.
* ...comparing filmmaking to cooking, then comparing it to walking on foot. What?
* ...realizing he's somehow gone a year without cooking a meal for himself. Geez, I subsist largely on a diet of peanut butter and rice, and even I cook more often than that.
* ...telling an insane story about throwing himself onto a flaming group of midgets, and then saying he would throw himself into a cactus if all the midgets survived. Then pointing out how he still has cactus pricks lodged in his knee "but they don't hurt."
* ...encouraging Berkeley students to steal film equipment and resources if need be, in order to make their own movies.
* ...and his whole "extremely pure film" critique of Gates Of Heaven, which is no doubt said with total conviction and indeed GOH is a legendary documentary. But Herzog even sounds funny when he's being completely sincere.
* ...explaining how he's eating the very shoe he wore when he made the wager with Morris, since he would've had lighter track shoes "but I'm not a coward."
* ...answering philosophical questions about film, art and humanity while he's in the midst of chowing down on his shoe.
* ...explaining how being a filmmaker inevitably turns out into a clown. Again, while he's in the midst of chowing down on his shoe.
* ...actually summing up this whole situation with grace and making a poignant statement about the art of filmmaking.

Werner Herzog is a riot.

Friday, February 03, 2017

The Secret Of Brim

So my friend Meryl recently showed me a cute text sent to her from her friend Emily, and I couldn't help notice that Emily had begun the text with "hey, bestie!" though both are grown women in their 30's.  This led to me texting my buddy Trev, a.k.a Boy Emily* and wondering why we didn't refer to each as 'bestie' in our regular text conversations.

* = both are redheads, both are very pleasant people...uh there is no third reason.  Two is enough, right?

This led to a few days of including the word 'bestie' in literally every text, concluding with Trev saying "while I like the sentiment, we need to find a word that doesn't make us sound like 12-year-olds."  This led to suggestions like Bro-ey, Broseph and Brimmy Bro Bro Junior Brabadoo.  The last suggestion was, of course, a Simpsons reference, since maybe 15% of everything Trev and I say to each other is from the Simpsons.

So now we're ending texts by calling each other 'Brimmy' and 'Brims.'  Frankly, I'd like to keep this going for the rest of our lives and never explain it to others.  (Well, unless they've read this post.)  (Which is doubtful.)

Now, you may be wondering why it's "Brimmy Bro Bro Junior Brabadoo" since the original Simpsons line was Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo.  It's because I screwed up and thought 'Jimmy' was the original line, a mistake so egregious for a so-called massive Simpsons fan that I hang my head in shame.  It's the opposing of brimming with pride.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hot! Live! Music!

Bruce Springsteen, "Thunder Road"
This was from 42 years ago (!) and yet somehow the Boss is as good in concert now as he was then.  I could listen to this song on a loop forever.

Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, "Motion Picture Soundtrack"
A distinctly different version of the song we all know and love, performed six years before the track showed up on the Kid A album.  It may be because I'm simply more used to the original...wait, if this is from 1995, isn't THIS the "original"?  Okay, it may be because I'm simply more used to the Kid A version, but I prefer "I think you're crazy" to "I think I'm crazy."  Has a nicer lyrical flow.

Stars, "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead"
Canadian content!  Kudos to my old university radio co-host Maggie for introducing me to Stars years ago.  Now, it's not like I've actually ever really looked up any more of their music in the decade-plus since but...uh...I've forgotten my point.  But this album is excellent!

Prince, "Dolphin/Heroes/I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man/Use Me/How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore"
Keeping with this post's theme of cool stripped-down versions of great songs, here's a medley from one of Prince's last concerts.  Among the many reasons why Prince was an impossibly good live performer was his ability to call upon not just the literally hundreds of songs he wrote and produced over the years, but also countless covers, from both a Bowie megahit to a Bill Withers megahit-in-its-day.  Going to a Prince show was like a musical history lesson.