September 1, 2011

The Best Curling Music Video Ever

I know it's from 2009, but I'm in my thirties, and new stuff takes a while to get to me, and Men with Brooms (the TV show and especially the movie) was disappointing; this clip is ten minutes long, yet it's worth it, so watch it:

Jamie Foxx is in it. Count the Fanboys.

August 22, 2011

Le Bon Jack: 1950-2011

'We can look after each other much better than we do today.'

5 ball. Corner pocket.

'You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love...'

Truly funny.

'My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.'

Jack Layton

May 20, 2011

"Macho Man" Randy Savage: The Value of the Bad Guy

Randall Poffo ("Macho Man" Randy Savage) was the greatest WWF(E) wrestler-entertainer of the 1980s. Like a lot of amazing wrestlers, he was often in the shadow of another more popular one, in his case, Hulk Hogan.

Sometimes he was Hogan's friend (Mega Powers)

And more entertainingly, he was his adversary:

Savage was always the alternative to Hogan: the good guy. To a kid who, consciously or not, never liked the coolest or best thing (I liked GoBots, Hey Vern! It's Ernest, the band Skid Row), Macho Man was the first time I can remember embracing the alternative choice: the bad guy.

After hearing about his death, I (like others I imagine) am thinking about myself as a kid today. There's really no other sane way to contextualize the death of celebrities you didn't know personally other than to remember their first effects on you. Before Macho Man, Darth Vader and Clubber Lang were the bad guys, and therefore, I hated them. I didn't want to understand them. Pro wrestling taught my single-digit self how to be interested in the villain, and that first villain, was Randy Macho Man Savage.

Savage provided a counterpoint to Hulkamania that wasn't draped in a foreign flag like Nikolai Volkov or the Iron Sheik (intricate political concepts like xenophobia were likely lost on me at 8 years of age). Savage was like Hogan, only, he was nothing like Hogan. And that was all a kid needed if he wanted to avoid the clutches and restrictions of Hulkamania.

Somehow, Macho Man dying reminds me of how glad I am to have never embraced Hulkamania for fear of the effect that might have on my current adult life. Hulkamania indoctrination might have inspired me to say my prayers and eat my vitamins, both rather mundane things. Maybe, being a Hulkamaniac would've led to a love for Nickelback or pleated khaki pants or conservative politics? I don't know. I really don't. But with Hulkamania, there was little room for human nuance. Savage was every shade of grey.

I'm positive the Macho Man taught me something when my brain was still soft. Learning to embrace the bad guy, hopefully, hasn't resulted in my becoming a bad guy, but I believe it has somehow expanded my tolerance, my defense of "unpopular" choices (yes, I realize I'm giving a lot of weight to pro wrestling now). Savage was neither wholly good nor wholly bad. He was as human a superstar the WWF ever dared present.

And for that, his death is not just another wrestler death. It really is, as people will say, a piece of childhood. The piece that didn't yet know, the good guy is not always so good and the bad guy, not always so bad.

Dig it.

May 17, 2011

Botaoshi: Another Sport I Haven't Heard Of...Until Now...

Okay, watch this. Maybe I'm late to the party, as this seems to be reaching viral video status, but better late than never. The sport is called Botaoshi, and even though I have no idea what's happening for the first half of it, I want to play it:

Literally meaning (apparently) Pole-pull down, according to Peter C. Smith's Fist from the Sky: Japan's Dive-Bomber Ace of World War II, Botaoshi is a Japanese Naval sport where two opposing teams [of possibly 75 a side] attempted to protect their respective flags placed atop a pole. Obviously, the game has replaced the flag with, well, a human being. (Though the pole has yet to become a Pole)
So what, you want me to just stand here like this until they knock him off?

The aggression of North American football, the rule confusion of Aussie Rules Football (though the OAFL's High Park Demons are currently at 2-0), and the mayhem of WWE Royal Rumbles, Botaoshi should be a surefire hit for North Americans into alternative sports who have long grown tired of Ultimate Frisbee and Unicycles.

So what do you say? All we need to do is get two poles and 150 people to the park this weekend.

Should be easy. Start Bataoshi!

Or maybe Americans invented Botaoshi in Japan. I need a research department.

May 4, 2011

Rashard Mendenhall & Osama Bin Laden, with Obligatory Tie-In To Candian Politics

We're about to start with one discussion, and leave it dangling on another, barely related one. This will be a problem for some. If this were one of my student's essays, I might write "lacks cohesion." We like a thesis. We like conclusions stemming from said thesis. However, the only real conclusions mentioned here will be death (Osama Bin Laden's) and 140 Character limits (Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Rashard Mendenhall's). But a thesis? Okay.

I’m not upset that Osama Bin Laden is dead, or that Rashard Mendenhall tweeted about it.

On Monday, Rashard Mendenhall tweeted the following with respect to the Bin Laden death announcement:
"@R_Mendenhall What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side...”
Obviously, some people were pissed. ESPN dusted off the "Should Athletes Tweet" discussion.

Hold up now, and let me finish.

Now, I didn’t follow the Pittsburgh Steelers running back on twitter (until now) because following NFL players on twitter can ruin their appeal for me. Last year, I followed one of my favourite players in the NFL, and maybe of all time, Atlanta’s WR Roddy White, only to find out he is a terrible speller with an addiction to comma splices. It hasn’t ruined my admiration for him as a football player (though maybe for the standards at his College), but it certainly threatened to. To be fair, seeing Billy Collins attempt to catch a Matt Ryan pass in the slot might affect how I read his poetry.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths" - From Marginalia by Billy Collins

But back to the @R_Mendenhall tweet:
“What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side...”
The impractical philosopher side of my brain was with him until “We’ve only heard one side….” – I respectfully disagree that we did hear Bin Laden’s side, and the obvious literal side of me says it was pretty friggin' loud. It sounded like airplanes crashing and has echoed with war and global paranoia for the past ten years. Okay, so Mendenhall is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. We're all a little bit insane. If the Steelers can forgive Roethlisberger's raping, I think we can forgive Mendendall for a questionable belief.

The tweet as a whole shows some intellectual balls (brain balls), particularly as NFL players twitter accounts often centre on football training and inspirational quotes (@jeremyshockey) unwavering love for America (@drewbrees) or solipsism and product endorsement (@TerrellOwens). Now, despite my leading adjectives, there is nothing particularly wrong with any of these tweeting styles, and each are well within what one might want or need from an NFL tweeter—particularly during Fantasy Football season. Hey, we all can't be @JohnFugelsang.

Rashard Mendenhall works a job where it’s necessary to have a personality, but anathema to display the real one (it's a bit like what us teachers are "supposed" to be). But Mendenhall did both, and agree or disagree, here’s why that’s awesome:

1. He actively engages in politics through a thoughtful and difficult question. If you're an athlete (which he is) and 23 (which he is), it’s likely too easy to let Twitter be a string of empty bullshit, especially if your fan base has no interest in what you ACTUALLY have to say (which his did). For anyone who bounces around this blog, a few years ago, I suggested Sean Avery was an asshole for “having a personality.” My preoccupation at the time, his only engagement was in being a thoughtless asshole. Mendenhall might have been a bit of an asshole to some, but puts considered thought behind it. That difference is huge, and the reason why every verbal disagreement doesn't become a fist fight (or why every difference of policy need not become a war).

Athletes dipping into politics without thought is bad (e.g. John Rocker's "The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners."). Yes, sometimes athletes, like everyone else, will piss people off with politics, and sometimes, yes, that starts a necessary conversation with the people who are most offended:

Mexico City, 1968 (from R to L: Uncomfortable white guy, Tommie Smith, John Carlos)

2. Mendenhall didn’t delete the tweet after receiving what must have been a shit storm of 140 character Patriotism and sports news roundtables condemning him. That takes wherewithal. Last week, I deleted a tweet, embarrassed because I spelled colour the American way “color.” Monday, a 13 year old girl tweeted me unsarcastically about a joke I had made regarding my "adolescent orange zits" and to be honest @skysfamousbaby, it took all my strength to let it go.

3. Mendenall clarifies his tweet with this follow-up letter (because sometimes, there is no shame in saying something using more than 140 characters). While I don’t share his religious justification for the tweet, he still had the stones to say the following:
Nothing I said was meant to stir up controversy. It was my way to generate conversation. In looking at my timeline in its entirety, everything that I’ve said is with the intent of expressing a wide array of ideas and generating open and honest discussions, something I believe we as American citizens should be able to do. Most opinions will not be fully agreed upon and are not meant to be. However, I believe every opinion should be respected or at least given some thought.
Mendenhall didn't express anything that was immoral (though pin that down). He expressed an opinion as a person, which is not the same thing as expressing an opinion as a football player. Yes, he gets paid to do the later, but it's refreshing to see the former, particularly in the follow up, which acknowledges without recanting, teaches without lecturing, discusses without concluding.

Now, as the title suggests, here's the leap:

Sometimes conversations don't need to end right fact, the ones that do, probably weren't even conversations. This sounds too simple. And it is. I likely could've expressed in half a tweet, and more people probably would've read it too. Fresh off a disappointing election and extremely negative week of "discussion" in Canada, which will no doubt continue until 2015, I sort of just want to leave it at that for now...if you made it this far, and now ask "So what was the point of these 6500 characters (approx. 46 tweets)?", great...step one.

"The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. Discuss."

May 1, 2011

The NHL Playoff Mascot Battle Part Four: Bruins v. Flyers

A day late, but cry about it why don't you? Let's finish up this premise, shall we….

What's a Bruin?
It's a bear. Killer of Goldlilocks, eight month hibernator, comedian friend to Kermit and comic relief for Dan Aykroyd's The Great Outdoors. Specifically, a bruin refers to the Eurasian Brown Bear, which has likely only ever been to Boston as part of a circus or as a rug.

Another Dan Aykroyd reference, Brock? Really?

What's a Flyer?
A Flyer is someone who flies. I thought it would have more significance, but really, it doesn't. So, I guess let's find someone who flies. UFC fighter Ben Henderson has giant wings tattooed on his back (any they're terrible), but he doesn't fly (and we need literal flying here). 90% of Seal songs discuss his ability to soar, glide, or fly, but that seems to be a metaphor. The only angels I believe in are Rod Carew's 1983 California Angels and the Greek mythology thing was sort of done in Lightning v. Capitals. No, we need a frequent flier. We need a pilot. And who better than the world's most famous pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.

I don't like where this one's going. You're actually going to make me fight a bear? I saved like, a bunch of people.

What if Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger fought a Eurasian Brown Bear?
As poised and heroic as Captain Sullenberger was on flight 1549, come on, this is a bear we're talking about here. There's really not much of a fight. I do, however, feel somewhat reticent to discuss the mauling of a guy who saved so many lives. I started writing about what a bear would do to a 60 year old man, and then thought, whoa, this is in poor taste, and hadn't I learned my lesson after the 2006 blog entry fiasco "Who would win a punch fight: Oscar Schindler or Ogopogo?"

So here's what happened in the scenario. The morning of the fight, Sully wasn't feeling well. He went to the Doctor who diagnosed a minor cold and recommended he avoid all strenuous activity. "But I have to fight a bear today" Sully said. "Not today you won't," said the Good Doctor. Enter the bear, "Are you kidding me? I trained to fight a pilot. I'm ready to fight a pilot. I AM GOING TO FIGHT A PILOT!"

What a bear wants, a bear gets. Now, keep in mind, no matter who fights, the results will be the same. The Bear will maul the Flyer. So, I ask you, dear reader in order to save Sully Sullenberger, which of these pilots would you like to see mauled by a bear? (leave a comment why don't ya). The nominees are....

Maverick in Top Gun

Ted Striker in Airplane!

Snoopy when he pretends to fight The Red Baron

Mel Gibson in Air America

John Travolta

Result: Exit, pursued by a bear. Regardless of the Pilot the winner is...

Whoa, a Shakespeare reference! Show off!

April 29, 2011

The NHL Playoff Mascot Battle Part Three: Lightning v. Capitals

We now move to the Eastern conference semi-finals, not because we want to, but because we must start what we've finished. I've noticed some nice blog stats, so thank you, Poland! Without further ado (and a tonne of embedded pictures and links to break up the dense parts)....kumate!

What's Lightning?
Though this question often comes up while smoking pot or in Insane Clown Posse lyrics, lightning is electrical atmospheric discharge (that's all I can tell you. Go to Wikipedia for the real story). Lightning is all powerful, all consuming, and an element that figures prominently in at least three Dan Aykroyd movies (The Great Outdoors, Both Ghostbusters). Though lightning has many representatives, from Percy Jackson who likes to steal it to the cast of Grease who liked to um…grease it, when it comes to the heavy hitter, we look to the God of lightning (and thunder) himself: Zeus, occasional rapist in swan's clothing and father to more children than the Palins and 1980s L.A. Lakers combined! (note: click that swan hyperlink if you want a PG13 surprise)

Don't you know that if you hold it like that, you could go blind?

What's a Capital?
The major region of a country where governmental decisions are made, and we can narrow this decision down easily as the Washington Capitals play in, duh, Washington D.C. Capitals are basically buildings (i.e. The Capitol) bunched up in a particular area, but as Tom Hanks' Josh Baskin said in Big, "It's a building. What's so fun about playing with a building?"

I don't get it. Why is he writing about mascots fighting? Maybe it can turn into a bug...

No, we need a symbol of the capital that isn't a building. We need a leader. Someone with the guts to stand up to the scourge of lightning, which in a Live song crashed, causing a new mother to cry, while her placenta fell to the floor (Damn you, Lightning! Placenta on the floor is a hygiene issue!). Who's the man for the job? Well, it's gotta be the man in charge of the Washington Capital. Suit up, Barack, you're going in!

My right fist is called lunch, 'cause you'll be eating it.

What would happen if Zeus fought Obama?
We need a soundtrack for this clash of the Titans. So who better than one of the 16 greatest bands of the late 1970s Thin Lizzy. Press play for some good fighting' music and read on, if you've made it this far, oh, battle hungry reader:

Hold onto your hats here, but sometimes, lightning actually strikes capital cities. Instances of lightning in capitals provide some guidance. In 1902, lightning struck Paris' Eiffel Tower.

So, what you're saying is...Eiffel liked his penis.

The lightning damaged the tower and brought the getting-engaged-in-an-obvious-place economy to standstill; however, the tower was repaired, so the capital was more than able to Ride the Lightning. In 2008, lightning struck an Ottawa home (that's Canada's capital for the more than 40% of you who seem to be reading outside of North America), and burned it. So lightning takes that one. It's too close to call. This one goes to a game seven. Who will be the hero?

Serendipity! Last week, a lightning storm occurred directly over the American capital's White House. That's right: directly over Hawaiian-American Barack Obama's house! Now, and this is important (in relative terms), the lightning never made contact. So what do we take from that? Nice try, Zeus! Where France's wimpy icon failed, America's conquers! That's freedom lightning, Frenchy! Note how the American flag is so repellent, that even lightning will avoid such an obvious lightning rod:

U Can't Touch This!

Result: Capitals win. Nowhere in the literature (and I read it ALL) has there been an instance of lightning destroying an entire capital city. The Great Fire of London was started by a London area baker who left some bagels in the oven while he went to the store for some tonic. True Story, no one in particular.

Tomorrow: 4 of 4. Have you heard the one about the Bear and the Flyer. What's a Flyer exactly? Tune in, Tokyo, and find out!

The NHL Playoff Mascot Battle Part Two: Red Wings v. Sharks

We continue with the second of four analyses: "Which NHL mascot would win in a fight?"

What’s a Red Wing?
Of all team “mascots,” insomuch as a wheel with a wing on it can be a mascot, this one is the most elusive (only the Blues would be tougher to personify). A Red Wing is essentially, nothing. It’s a nickname based on a nickname. From Total Hockey: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Hockey League:
“(Detroit Falcons' owner) Norris had been a member of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, a sporting club with cycling roots. The MAAA's teams were known by their club emblem and these Winged Wheelers were the first winners of the Stanley Cup in 1893. Norris decided that a version of their logo was perfect for a team playing in the Motor City and on October 5, 1932 the club was renamed the Red Wings."
So, a Red Wing is a symbol: a single wheel with a single wing, but given the inspiration for the symbol, the Red Wing is a more usefully, more literally, a cyclist.
I ride bikes! And use Pert Plus!

What’s a Shark?
A shark is a deadly fish that ruined one summer for Roy Scheider.

Will Joe Thornton ever win the big one?

What if a Deadly Fish fought a Cyclist?
In the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg movie The Other Guys, there’s a nice scene of antagonism between characters which provides precedent with which to discuss a battle between land dwelling and ocean bound animals.
If I were a lion and you were a tuna, I would swim out in the middle of the ocean and freaking eat you, and then I'd bang your tuna girlfriend.

OK, first off: a lion, swimming in the ocean? Lions don't like water. If you placed it near a river, or some sort of fresh water source, that makes sense. But you find yourself in the ocean, 20 foot wave, I'm assuming off the coast of South Africa, coming up against a full grown 800 pound tuna with his 20 or 30 friends, you lose that battle, you lose that battle 9 times out of 10. And guess what, you've wandered into our school of tuna and we now have a taste of lion. We've talked to ourselves. We've communicated and said 'You know what, lion tastes good, let's go get some more lion'. We've developed a system to establish a beach-head and aggressively hunt you and your family and we will corner your pride, your children, your offspring. […] You just lost at your own game. You're outgunned and out-manned.
Since game one of this series is in San Jose, the Shark/Cyclist battle must therefore take place in the shark’s home arena (i.e. the Ocean). Though cyclists have incredible lung capacity and thigh muscles, riding a bike in the ocean is next to impossible; actually, the bike is a definite impediment (have you ever tried to swim in running shoes? Like, way harder than that), and the cyclist is easily (b)eaten by a shark. If the Red Wing had home ice advantage and game one took place in a velodrome, I suspect the cyclist would gain advantage. We'll never know what could've been, though Shark in a Velodrome is possibly a good indie band name.

If Pavement stuck with their original name, Shark in a Velodrome, they would still hate you.

Result: Sharks win (just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water with your bike….). In these literal mascot battle scenarios, I wonder if anything will beat a shark (Lightning maybe? A Bruin-Shark final could be interesting, and is the premise of a 2001 book by Chris Bachelder.)

Fun Fact: Based on a 1990 fan vote, The San Jose Sharks original name was to be the San Jose Blades, but owners were concerned about the association with weapons and gang violence. The Shark received the second most votes, and history was sort of made.

Later Today: Mr. Lightning Goes to Washington.

April 28, 2011

The NHL Playoff Mascot Battle Part One: Canucks v. Predators

Though this idea would've provided more (hopefully) yuks-yuks in round one, I woke up this morning thinking about my predictions for the second round of the NHL playoffs. Watching hockey domestically with a "life partner and best friend" who 1. doesn't care about hockey, but 2. will sit beside me as I watch, affords a fine time to answer obvious questions and reflect about why it is that sports are 1. Fun to watch, 2. Hard to explain literally.

Inspired by the fairly cool Spike TV show Deadliest Warrior, where violent scientists simulate who would win in a war between say, Ninjas & Vikings or KGB agents & the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers, starting today (and finishing before each Game One starts), I will examine who would "literally win" the round two NHL playoff battles were they meetings between the actual team mascots.

Series One: The Vancouver Canucks vs. The Nashville Predators

What's a Canuck?
Well, nothing much to report here: A Canuck is slang for a Canadian. Given the size of our home and native land, and the constant redefining of what a Canadian is during the current federal election, I suppose we need to be a bit more specific. A quick Googling narrows down the term Canuck to a 19th century Americanism for, specifically, a French Canadian. Though there are as many "types" of French Canadian as there are Canadians, the election run-up tells me that a French Canadian, as of May 2011, is either NDP or Bloc Quebecois. As I am more familiar with the NDP, let's say that in this battle, the Canuck is Montreal born Jack Layton. (see endnote 1)

Bring it on, Pussy!

What's a Predator?
Another broad one. Animals, plants and conservatives can all be predatory. Schwarzenegger took on a Predator with dreadlocks, and even he couldn't kill it (somehow, Danny Glover was able to though). The Nashville logo gives us an easy clue as to which type of predator we are dealing with: why it's a sabre-tooth cat named Gnash!

A Top Ten Logo in Sports Blog coming?

The sabre-tooth cat has been extinct for a good 9000 years, but in its day, it could take down a mammoth. Were the Green party around 9000 years ago, they would've attempted to protect this predator, and it would have eaten them.

Don't vote strategically, and do shoot high on Luongo!

So what would happen if a sabre-tooth cat fought Jack Layton?
I suppose it depends if Jack Layton carried a weapon. His platform is certainly anti-gun, so all Jack has for this one are bare hands, tenacity, and 30% national support. Unfortunately, a sabre-tooth cat has little interest in political platforms, and can't understand Layton's attempts to compromise rather than fight dirty. Though Conservative and Liberals both have torn through Layton's plan to increase taxes, the sabre-tooth cat tears through his thigh flesh. Thanks to his focus on health care, Layton manages to escape with his life (and his seat), but realizes that the he could've beaten the cat as part of a larger team. Alas, it's too late, and the sabre-tooth cat is onto the next round battle (or, the Western Conference final).

Result: Predators win. (Sorry, Canucks. That's sort of what Predators do.)

Get over here, Harper. I just want to ask you a question.

Tomorrow: A Red Wing meets a Shark, and oh baby!, Lightning will fight the Capital. The results will astound you.

Note 1: the results end up the same if the Canuck is Gilles Duceppe, except that scenario ends with Duceppe having his leg separated from his body.

April 16, 2011

Another Top 5: Sport Beards!

I don't have a hairy back, and I can't grow a beard. You win some you lose some, I guess. I often think about beards. Don't read anything into this, although, please, keep reading.

Though I don't have any stats to back this up, my guess is that more men have beards in April than in any other month. There might be a case for more beards-a-sproutin' in whatever month it is that people enter week 2 of mountain climbing expeditions, but we are entering NHL playoff beard season, and University exam beards are in mid-swing, so in North America, I hypothesize that beard season is upon us. Now (let's make the connection) having just watched professional sports for 10 hours straight and counting, I feel the need to take a hairy little look at the top 5 Regular Beard Wearing Athletes of all time (playoff beards not eligible). I'm not the first to do this, I'm really not, but who has time to obsess about being original anymore? And besides, no other list drops a Jeff Reardon reference (OH! TEASER ALERT!)

1. Brian Wilson (2006 - Present)
Wilson's the obvious number one, for having both a thick and lustrous beard and for practically branding the thing. This includes the phenomenally extraneous site where you can play with his beard and click on it for fun little follicular surprises (try it). This guy's ebony beard is so famous, his twitter is a silhouette of a featureless bearded face. In 20 years, when my brain cells can't quite access the name of the pitcher who closed the 2010 World Series, I will remember a beard and a Giants' cap.

2. Randy Moss (1998 - Maybe the Present)
Besides being one of my favourite athletes of all time (when he was a Patriot), Randy Moss's eyelashes nearly touch his beard. Randy sports the rare case of a beard at high tide that threatens to take over the entire face. I remember a high school math teacher who possessed a similar lupine appearance, but instead of catching passes from Tom Brady, he seeped brown armpit stains. If Randy Moss wore slightly large sunglasses, you might see no unbearded cheek skin of the Mossy one. Sort of like how Teen Wolf looked in the segment of the movie where he starts to turn into an asshole....

Hey, Boof. Can you believe I'm 5'3 and on the basketball team?

3. Clark Gillies (1974 - 1988)
Though the most dramatic beard in hockey history has to go to Mike Commodore, that was a playoff beard and is disqualified from top 5 contention. A bit of a nostalgic choice, Clark Gillies' regular beard is really the only thing I remember about his face. It seemed a lot of 1970s New York Islanders looked like members of the Spartan Army. I'll go out on a limb and declare that the best team facial hair in NHL history would probably have to go to the 1979 New York Islanders, though because I don't want to research it, I will accept nominations. The internet is abuzz with rumours that Gillies was the first playoff beard, and though he would end up going moustache only through the 1980s, his best seasons were in full beard-face.

4. Jeff Reardon (1979 - 1994)
Growing up, I can only remember one player on my baseball cards who sported a full beard to any conspicuous degree. It was Jeff Reardon, who looked like my best friend's dad and who has had a rough post-baseball career which has included the death of a son, a charge for armed robbery, and a legal declaration of drug-induced insanity. There's nothing funny about that, but man, as both an Expo and a beard wearer, The Terminator was pretty great. I hope Jeff Reardon someday Googles himself, finds this blog, doesn't sue me for posting the picture, and sees that I thought he was pretty awesome.

5. "Macho Man" Randy Savage (1973 - 2005)
Ohhh yeah, dig it. The Macho Man's beard is so pure, that one wonders just how much of the savage was derived from the beard itself. I remember being a kid and wondering how a man with such a hairy face could have such a smooth body. WWE chest hair removal methods remain its great cultural contribution (not that I'd know). Because I had a massive crush on Miss Elizabeth (who didn't? She screwed up a generation of boys' image of what a beautiful woman was), I thought that my hairless body was half way to my dream of injuring Ricky Steamboat and kissing Miss Elizabeth on the mouth. I dreamed of the day (I was guessing maybe 16) where a beard would christen me "macho" - alas, it didn't happen, though I did pick up a small mound of chest hair in my early twenties.

Honorable Mentions (but disqualified for being too obvious or lacking in material for me to write a paragraph about): Dan Fouts (too Will Ferrel), Alexi Lalas (talking about U.S. Soccer is pretentious), Brett Keisel (too everyone else has already talked about his beard), Kimbo Slice (MMA people will find my blog and write "Homo" in my comments), Sebastien Chabal (too nobody reading this will know him), Hacksaw Jim Duggan (too...Two Wrestlers?).

Anyone make to the end of this? Anyone have any favourite bearded athlete they care to discuss? Come on anonymous bots and people putting porn links in my comments - I know you're going to tell me how informative my blog is for your essay, but go out on a bearded limb. Let me guess: you like 70s Bjorn Borg.

I am not David Beckham.

March 17, 2011

Rebecca Black & American Idol “does” Nirvana

Some people love ketchup. I am not one of those people. However, I will admit that ketchup is food. Last night, I finally caught up with the two phenomena I’d been behind on: Rebecca Black’s Friday (6 days late to the meme party) and season ten of American Idol, who “broke ground” last night when top 12 contestant Casey Abrams became the first to perform a Nirvana song. Both Black and Abrams present themselves like music, but both were not music.

Not Music

Rebecca Black’s video Friday is awful. This seems to be the consensus, and add me to the pile of high-minded self-righteous lefty writers who seem obsessed with blogging about this girl. If you haven’t watched the video, please, do it now. Please.

Most likely you have watched (the official video has 11 million youtube hits) the 3 minutes and 48 seconds of a vacant video faces, partying without alcohol, and observances and metaphysical quandaries such as “Kickin’ in the front seat/Sittin’ in the back seat/Gotta make my mind up/Which seat can I take?” Rebecca certainly has a lot on her plate—or bowl, as her first decision in the video is to eat cereal—and now she’s more famous for being a joke. As a joke, she’s much more Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? than she is Justin Bieber.

There are so many obvious jokes in this song, and the easiest target is Black’s recounting of the days of the week: “Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday/Today is Friday, Friday/Tomorrow is Saturday And Sunday comes afterwards” that unless this song and its video were written, produced, directed and distributed entirely by 13 year old savants, there is no way Friday is not an adult deconstruction of that THING that makes Justin Bieber a music celebrity. It’s sort of what bands like Bush did to Nirvana. Or Weird Al Yankovic did to Nirvana. Or soldiers in basic training do to guns. Break it down, show the component parts, and then build it back up to show you know exactly how it works.

Though it has already received multiple parodies on YouTube, my gut tells me that it is itself the parody. A respectable friend of mine thinks it’s no worse than anything Justin Bieber is doing, but in its coyness, it is worse. Being put in the position of defending Justin Bieber is not a case I take lightly, but even O.J. Simpson has lawyers. Black’s Friday is much worse for not tipping its hand (yet) and telling us how to watch. Pop music, even “bad” pop music has never needed a legend to tell us how to read it. That said, I understand that men in their 30s are not Rebecca Black’s target audience, but I still need to know what’s ketchup and what isn’t, so that I can avoid it. So I grapple. And maybe, you are still reading.

Rebecca Black is not “so bad it’s good” because it is so bad, it’s scary. In six days, it has entered the category of Macarena bad. It’s Wrath of Khan earwig bad, burrowing into the brain, feasting, feasting…Rebecca Black’s Friday will likely kill us all if it is real. But it can’t be real. It just can’t be. Please, let this be an exercise in the vein of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds or Joaquin Phoenix’s fake breakdown. Let the joke be on us, and let us get the joke…soon.


And then there’s Casey Abrams. Ryan Seacrest’s twitter account had pre-announced that a contestant would be “taking on Nirvana” on Tuesday night’s live American Idol. The show saw the top 12 singing a song from their birth year, and Abrams was born in 1991, so you guessed it: Smells Like Teen Spirit. While it's still an active link....

Now, I recognize the place Nirvana had in the world of my fellow white people born between 1971 and 1980, but they’ve always been ketchup for me. If you asked me what the defining moment of 1994 was for me, it wasn’t Cobain’s death, it was that I had finally made out with a girl and that Quiz Show was released.

Part of my somewhat cool Nirvana reception has always been the borderline fanaticism of Cobain fans, that if he was as cool as his fans believe (which he probably was), he would hate the reaction. Cobain fans are like Bieber fans. Cobain fans are like Dave Matthews Band fans. It’s not really the music that’s the problem, it’s the way in which the musician is worshipped that becomes the problem. By all of my other musical standards and tastes, I should love Nirvana. They fit right into my musical map. But I’m getting off topic here. The point is not to slag Nirvana. They are not a-musical.

American Idol is not a-musical either. The people can sing. Abrams, who in watching his promo seemed like the funny guy, can sing. He also played a bass on stage, has a beard, and is the only top 12 contestant not whitening his teeth to the molars. He is 1993 quirky. But Nirvana fans are having none of it. More common tweets when Abrams was singing Smells Like Teen Spirit were “Kurt Cobain would come back to life and shoot himself in the head again” and “He’s ruining my youth!” But for whatever reason, perhaps it’d be considered my shortcoming, I don’t agree with those who think American Idol cannot touch Nirvana. If Weird Al and Tori Amos can do it, we aren’t treading on sacred ground here.

American Idol contestants should continue to do songs they shouldn’t. It’s interesting. It’s maddening. It’s what good television drama is. My problem with the Abrams’ “doing” Nirvana was that it wasn’t particularly good. This is not because it was on Idol, and this is not a critique of a 20 year old song which is at least as good as any other rock song that year and definitely better than Rebecca Black’s Friday. Abrams certainly took on a big song, but unlike my unproven Rebecca Black Theory, there was no breaking it down and building it up. He sang the song, but he didn’t quite show that he knew “how it worked,” and that’s not to suggest that I do know, but hey, I’m not on American Idol. This year at least.

But Idol doing Nirvana is, in effect, a joke I know how to take. It is ketchup, but it is food.

Rebecca Black as truth scares me. It is calling itself ketchup, but I worry about what its consumption will do to my insides.

February 24, 2011

Andy Griffith and Blogger Stats

So, yesterday I discovered Blog Stats. I know, it's simple and stupid and I should've been more in touch with the now generation of Vox Populism and becomingtrubie who consider stats and analytics the same way I used to consider Dill Pickle Chips, Jolt Cola, and Saved by the Bell: things you must consume everyday.

Turns out, my post "Top 5 Musicians with Muscles" gets a lot of hits (mostly it appears, through people who google Iggy Pop Muscles). That was a fun one.

My most contentious post has been "The Worst Sport in the World: Volleyball." When it first came out, I had a few emails from people who called me Fat for not liking Volleyball. It was funny, but who takes the time to send an email to an ectomorph with mesomoprh tendencies to call them fat? The comments from Anonymous Volleyball playing people were quite right: I am ridiculous, and the reason I don't like it, is because I suck at it. I mentioned that in the post, but people still seemed angry. I suppose that's another reason why volleyball could suck: volleyball players not reading. I realize, almost two years after that post (which had 15 views today), that I was basically trying to write about Volleyball the way Andy Griffith discussed football.

It's cool to see that more Russians than Brazillians have stumbled onto this blog. That 14% of people who have been to Spartan use Macs. And that I am interested in this makes me feel very out of touch as I know this discovery is akin to currently "digging" a DJ Shadow album that came out in 1999. In a sense, I am more Andy Griffith than I ever thought I would be.

And so, while I look at the masturbatory Blogger Stats and stare at the bright colours and flashy things, here's some Andy Griffith discussing football. Spartan will be making its way back to Andy Griffith terrain over the next little while since that seems to be what makes strangers come to this thing. Though perhaps, I was always here:

February 2, 2011

Snow Day 2011: a Snow Day Retrospective

Every ten years, I get a snow day. Perhaps I only remember two.

The first was in North Bay in 1991. North Bay will always seem much colder than any other place I've ever lived, and my memory of the snow was that one morning it piled up 6 feet high at our doorstep. Perhaps that's relative since I had probably just cracked 5 feet in height. The highlight of that day was filling garbage bags with snow and using them as sleds down the driveway. It was all very folk art of us. We couldn't have imagined that something like the internet would be around some day, and I am positive that garbage bags were made a lot stronger 20 years ago when it didn't matter as much what went into landfills. By 2 in the afternoon, we were probably in the basement watching Jenny Jones and that was as perfect a day as a slow-to-develop-preteen-would-need until a few months later when someone introduced me to chewing tobacco and slow dancing.

In 2006, I heard this song over 200 times and went ten months without seeing snow.

My second snow day was in Vancouver, probably 2001. Vancouverites are like Americans when it snows: the city shuts down emotionally, people become "shocked" by the mere existence of cold precipitation that doesn't land on Whistler, and everyone starts driving like a raccoon in a live-action kids movie would, especially if there wasn't another raccoon working the pedals. As I was part of the workforce in '01, slinging vitamins for a company owned by the cult of Jehovah's Witness, this snow day was less about exploration, and likely turned into an excuse to drink on a Wednesday afternoon. Jenny Jones was still on TV, so I probably watched it. The best part of this snow day was that by noon, the snow had melted and I actually saw grass. The Vancouver snow day was like a Sphinx riddle: what acts like an osteoporotic ex-tennis pro in the morning and actually plays tennis by mid-afternoon? Or something.

In 2010 Captain Beefheart died, and it snowed all day.

That's it. Until 2021,

January 14, 2011

4 Alternative Theories: The 90s

I've been listening to a lot of 90s music lately. It's the only music I can claim first person or non-pretentious nostalgia for (like I do when I claim that music was soooo good in the 1940s and those were the good old days; or that Janis Joplin is listenable; or that I was into Motley Crue in 1981, but I was 2 years old, and they were already one year into 5 combined venereal diseases.).

I was planning a number of long pieces on the 1990s, and still might have a go at them, but in the past few weeks, here are some things I've been thinking that can't fit in a tweet or status update (except maybe #4).

1. The only band of the "alternative era" that was both truly alternative and truly popular was The Presidents of the United States of America. Primus was too alternative to be popular. Smashing Pumpkins were popular but not an alternative to anything by time Siamese Dream was out. You can make an argument for Tool, but Tool is perhaps outside of the genre of alternative and are probably art metal. The big four (Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana and Pearl Jam) were all just rock and roll bands of varying degrees of awesome.

2. Of all the lead singers who died young, Mother Love Bone's Andrew Wood is perhaps the most significant. Mother Love Bone would have made Porno for Pyros unnecessary if Andrew Wood could've have avoided a heroin overdose before grunge "broke." Not to mention, Pearl Jam probably doesn't happen if Wood doesn't die. This was a really cool band, and when nostalgic 90s movies start getting made, MLB will be playing in the background of party scenes.

3. The best movie about the 1990s is somehow 1993's Dazed and Confused which is a movie set in the 1970s. This seems like something I didn't think of on my own, yet I know I've thought it for a while, probably because everyone was dressing like the kids in D&C in 1993 (unless you were dressing like 2Pac). Possibly someone else has expressed this idea (Klostermann maybe, he says shit that we're all thinking all of the time). Singles, Reality Bites and Threesome do not transcend the era like Pearl Jam's Ten, Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger or even Mudhoney's Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. In a 100 years, Back to the Future Part II will be a more accurate depiction of 2015 then any of these movies are of 1993. Which is not saying a lot.

4 more years until this is a reality!

4. Axl Rose probably killed Kurt Cobain. He had motive.

Tour with us, Kurt! We play stadiums and have 3 junkies in the band for you to play with!

Kickstart my Blog

Setting: Skype. Time: Today.

Q: "Why have a blog if you aren't going to post anything?"
A: "I know."
Q: "So post something?"
A: "Why, will you read it?"
Q: "Maybe."
A: "I've just listened to 9 straight hours of 1970s progressive rock. I don't feel like writing anything for instant public consumption. Check out Jake Mooney's blog. He's interesting. And diligent."
Q: "Cool. Anything good?"
A: "You mean, music or the blog?"
Q: "Music."
A: "Yes, everything good."
Q: "Like what?"

A: "Did you listen to it?"
Q: "Yes."
A: "Liar."
Q: "I listened to it. It's cool near the end. "
A: "I believe you because it is very cool near the end. Most of the time people don't click links."
Q: "Yep."
A: "So I'm going to post this, okay?"
Q: "Post what?"
A: "This conversation."
Q: "Boring."
A: "Yeah, but I woke up with only about 150 words in me, and you just took them all up with your questions."