Saturday, September 27, 2008

RIP, Cool Hand Luke.

Paul Newman has passed away. He was 83, and lost his battle with cancer yesterday. Not only was he one of the greatest actors ever to live, he was a great man as well. He spearheaded countless charitable efforts. He was never one of those actors who made the tabloid pages with bizarre behaviour. Amazingly, in Hollywood, he managed to remain married to Joanne Woodward for 50 years. Although he may have considered that his proudest achievement, he once said that the greatest honour he ever received was being included on Richard Nixon's infamous "enemies" list. When I heard today that he had died, I immediately put on Cool Hand Luke, and I have been watching it as I write in my blog, and as I compiled a top-ten tribute to Paul Newman on the Cynical Cinema page:

The real debate happens after the actual debate.

It was my girlfriend's birthday yesterday. And although I told her that I would let her watch anything she liked, I ended up forcing her to watch the Obama-McCain presidential debate at 9:00. Although I must say, she was kinda interested in it. Of course, she went to bed as soon as the pundits started dissecting the whole thing. And while certain networks (MSNBC included) appeared to be very impartial about the whole outcome, others (FOX News included) managed to showcase their partisan bias at full force. Which is standard procedure. It amazes me that the debate over who won the debate is more contentious than the debate itself. Wait, scratch that. It doesn't amaze me at all. It's pretty obvious that this will happen, isn't it?

But that being said, I didn't hear anyone saying the things that occurred to me during the debate. I, as my blog has made clear in the past little while, am fully in the Obama camp when it comes to the American presidential election. And I was rooting for him to destroy McCain in this debate. And didn't happen. At all. I expected McCain to hold his own when it comes to foregin policy (and Obama did better than I thought he would on that front. In fact, I think he won the foreign policy portion of the debate.) But the one area where McCain is weakest (by his own admission, at times) is the economy. And with the massive bailout controversy going on in the governement now, of course the economy was going to be a major topic last night. And yet, McCain appeared to win that portion of the debate.

He kept hammering on earmarks and pork-barrel spending and all this crap. He started railing about the fact that the government had sent 3 million dollars to study the DNA of bears. And I thought - here it is, Obama! Bring up the fact that McCain's own running mate requested an earmark to study the DNA of harbor seals! But he didn't. If he could have steered the discussion away from all this no-win tax break business - like, back to the bailout, or more pointedly, to McCain's love for deregulation, things could have been different. But he didn't. He let McCain drive the discussion toward basically irrelevant things like earmarks and cutting spending and the tax break plan. He could easily have hammered on McCain for his history fighting fiercely for deregulation, a position that helped to create the climate in which today's crisis could come to pass. In fact, any discussion on the economy, except for the one they actually had, would have favoured Obama. So why didn't he steer the debate in that direction?

I think maybe it was because he wanted a civil, pleasant debate early on, and it wasn't until McCain really went on the attack that he stepped it up, and by then the economic thing was past. But watching Lehrer ask both candidates, over and over, what programs they would cut from their plan because of the economic crisis and the 700 billion dollar bailout, while they both answered completely different questions, was pretty painful.

So then Obama understands how the debate is going to go, and goes a little more on the attack. But did he attack enough? Did he jump on the opportunities he was given? Again, not really. Most specifically, I thought, was a moment near the end of the foreign policy debate, where McCain basically made (for the first time ever) the admission that the U.S. does indeed torture people. And that he wants to make sure they never do again, and he has fought against torture. And all Obama says is that he agrees with McCain? That's it? Yes, there shouldn't be torture? How about hammering McCain on the fact that the anti-torture measures he passed through are actually completely toothless? That they include dozens of loopholes that allow the United States to go on torturing people as much as they like without fear of retribution. It's quite similar to the Bush administration saying they don't torture by re-defining the word "torture". McCain's measures do the same, allowing people to torture others be re-defining the titles of those doing the toruturing. So why not call him out on it? What is going on!

In the end, I think Obama showed an incredible command of facts and a clear plan of action in terms of American foreign affairs. McCain was unsuccessful at painting Obama as a guy who "doesn't understand". In fact, McCain came off as a smug little prick, frankly, as he never once looked at Obama the whole time, as he smirked in a self-satisfied way and looked patronizing when he addressed the camera. But in terms of the actual debate, and the points made, McCain actually won. He doesn't speak as well as Obama. He doesn't have the coherent policies that Obama has. He doesn't have the same command of the facts as does Obama. But Obama let him dictate the terms of the first half hour, and that made all the difference.

God, I hope the next one goes better. Then again, the one I am really looking forward to watching is the vice-presidential debate. Much as I was surprised that Obama didn't destroy McCain last night, I will be thirty times more surprised if Joe Biden doesn't wipe the floor with Sarah Palin. Both have looked foolish with Katie Couric of late - Biden making that bizarre factual error about FDR and the television and the great depression. But watching Palin in her interview with Couric was staggering. It was like watching the guy with the microphone asking a six-year-old beauty pageant contestant about world peace and what she wants to be when she grows up. Although at the very least, Couric didn't pat her on the head and say "oh, that's sweet, dear" when Palin went off on that bizarre Putin Airspace Invade Alaska tangeant. I saw McCain on Couric too. Only, I saw him on that show only when David Letterman showed the live footage of McCain preparing for that interview. Having just called Letterman to cancel his appearance. Because he was speeding to the airport right now to don a cape and tights and Save The Day with the mortgage crisis. In fact, this is now my favourite youtube clip:

NINE minutes, Letterman goes off on McCain. Hilarious. Don't piss that man off. Here's another great one, Palin on Couric:

That country is insane! Thank God we have Stephen Harper and his ilk running for...oh, right.

Another fine day.

So...I got beat up by a female cop-boxer and was deafened by a band in the living room. But that was just part and parcel of a wonderful time at the home of John Wright and his family in Barrhaven yesterday morning. We gave the family a full year of hair care at Le Look Hair Studio in Barrhaven (my girlfriend's shop). I have improved, I think, as far as my boxing skills go, thanks to the workout I had at Final Round Boxing a few months ago. But I still, clearly, haven't learned how to play offense. And Becky Abbott and her band absolutely rocked that place. Giving true meaning to the phrase "wake the neighbours". For full video of the third tour stop (and to check out the video of my boxing training, further down the page, if you so desire), check out this link:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Once more. Ignore this, non-football fans!

I have had a few emails asking if I'd be putting up my football picks on my blog this year. I decided early on not to do so, because for non-football fans it's a waste of space. And for many actual football fans, it's a waste of space too, because really they'd be better off listening to Chris Berman. Or Cris Collingsworth. Not John Madden. But I'm going to start doing it again, because it makes me think more about my picks and therefore it helps me do better. And I've had a lousy first three weeks of pool season, so don't pay too much attention.

1. Jacksonville over Houston: This is not so much an endorsement of the Jaguars as it is a condemnation of the Texans. With an extra week to prepare against the Titans, they came out flat and got torched by Kerry Collins. And I'm still not sold on Collins as a replacement for Vince Young. Jacksonville looked like they're going in the right direction against the Colts, and I think they'll make short work of the Texans here.

Jaguars 30-27 (OT) Well...I was awfully wrong. The Jags did NOT make short work of the Texans, and if it wasn't for that trick-play direct snap touchdown, they would have lost this game. Looks like Houston just had an off week last week, but they are actually a force here. And the Jaguars are still the best team in their division, in my opinion, finding a way to come back and win. But it's pretty tight.

2. Philadelphia over Chicago: I am totally sold on the Eagles. They could well have beaten the Cowboys, who could well be the best team in the NFL. Even with their biggest weapon, Brian Westbrook, hurting from an ankle injury, the Eagles should beat up on the Bears, who have proven they can't close out games in the first three weeks.

Bears 24-20. On this one...I was even more wrong. I'm tempted to write this off as an anomaly, because of Brian Westbrook being out and McNabb playing hurt, but who knows? If they can't score with that O-Line on 4th down and a yard at the goal line for the win, are they really as good as they seem? They looked great even in losing against the Cowboys, but then the 'Boys looked human this week too.

3. San Diego over Oakland: And BIG. The Chargers finally turned it on in Week 3, hammering the Jets. Let's not forget that if it weren't for Ed Hochuli's blown call and a miraculous last-play hail mary, the Chargers would be 3-0. They learned their lesson and put New York away early and kept pouring it on. They will do the same to Oakland. Only worse. The Raiders let a game slip right out of their fingers last week against Buffalo.

San Diego 28-18. Seriously. Come on. A seventy-six yard field goal attempt? 76 yards? Janikowski is good, but...come ON! Now, that being said, even if Oakland had managed to pull off some miraculous field goal from that distance, they would still have lost by a touchdown. Oakland really is that terrible, and I really think San Diego is this good. Although against the Raiders I wouldn't read too much into this particular game.

4. Dallas over Washington: Also big. Dallas might be the best team in the NFL right now, and although Washington is pretty good, they just don't match up well here. The Skins are likely the fifth-best team in the NFC, maybe even fourth-best, but they happen to play in a division with the 1-2-3 teams.

Washington 26-24. This is how my season has gone. I know, this was a division game, and a rivalry like this often tosses conventional wisdom out the window. But you have to question the Cowboys decision making here. Throwing the ball to Terrell Owens 20 times, for like three completions? Running the ball only eleven times? Washington played great, but Dallas appeared to out-coach themselves. Although this game convinced me Washington is for real. The four best teams in the NFC could well be in this division.

5. Buffalo over St. Louis: The Bills have amazed me, going 3-0 to start the season. They looked really shaky against the Raiders on Sunday, but managed to pull out a last-second win. I'm not sold on the Bills as a powerhouse yet, but they should easily get to 4-0 against the Rams, the worst team in football.

Bills 31-14. The Buffalo Bills - you ready for this? - are 4-0. 4-0. The Bills. Now, they beat the Rams, the worst team in football. And I'm including most high school teams in that blanket statement. Rams fired their coach after the game, but it isn't really his fault. Stephen Jackson can't do everything himself. But the Bills really do look good.

6. Denver over Kansas City: Denver, of course, does not deserve to be 3-0. But they have managed to find a way to win, and they will easily make it to 4-0 against the Chiefs, who are simply terrible. I'm still not sold on the Broncos either, but I am definitely sold on how lousy the Chiefs are going to be this year.

Chiefs 33-19. Wait...what? Again, division rivalry, a real one, where anything can happen...but could this really happen? The Chiefs winning, and winning BIG? Larry Johnson appears to have found his running game again, but then again it came against a Broncos defense that has not looked good at all this year. I'm still a fan of Cutler and the Broncos offense, but that D has to be at the very least adequate if they expect to make the playoffs. And I am still not sold that the Chiefs are any good. I have the inclination to put an asterisk beside this one - division game an all...jury's still out on both teams.

7. Pittsburgh over Baltimore: Sure, the Steelers are missing some pieces for this game. And the Ravens are off to a surprising (to me) start. But Pittsburgh's biggest weakness is their pass defense, and I just don't see Baltimore being able to exploit that.

Pittsburgh 23-20 (OT). Well, I was right and wrong. The Steelers certainly missed their injured players (and lost one on the opening kickoff, too), but moreso I was wrong about the Ravens. Here's a team with a rookie quarterback, facing a good team and a good defense on the national stage on Monday for the first time in his career. And he looked awfully shaky early. But Joe Flacco hit his stride as the game went on, amd looked pretty decent. He has great arm strength, and even when Troy Polamolu read his eyes and jumped the routes, again and again, Flacco was still able to gun the ball past him to the receivers. It looks like Pittsburgh is still the class of the division, and if they get healthier they will remain the best. If not, look for the Ravens to be the best team in this division by the end of the year.

8. New Orleans over San Francisco: Saints are 1-2. Niners are 2-1. But they should be tied in the division at 2-2 after this one's over. It'll be close, the Niners are certainly better than they were a year ago, but the Saints look to be getting it together, and they do have a better team.

Saints 31-17. The Saints DO have the better team. And they ARE coming together right now. Look for this to be a jumping off point as the Saints make a serious run for the division title. Because this division is not all that good. The Niners have a shot at it as well, but they have to get noticeably better than they were in this one.

9. Carolina over Atlanta: In a close one. The Falcons have been a very surprising team this season, in the first three games. They are 2-1 against some pretty bad teams. But Carolina is a pretty good team. And they should be able to protect Jake Delhomme much better than they did against Minnesota.

Carolina 24-9. Carolina IS a pretty good team. And Jake Delhomme was protected enough to complete some passes and make enough plays to win. And Atlanta, although they have looked pretty decent in the first three weeks, are still not good enough to play with the better teams in the NFL. They could make it to 7-9 this year, maybe the playoffs next year if everything falls into place.

10. Green Bay over Tampa Bay: Brian Griese will have an easier time against the Packers' secondary than he ordinarily would, what with Al Harris being out. But despite their loss to the Cowboys last week, the Pack is still a force to be reckoned with, and Aaron Rodgers could have a really big game.

Buccaneers 30-21. Packers secondary played better than I thought they would without Al Harris. For the first three quarters. And the Pack fought back and got into the game, actually taking a 21-20 lead late into the fourth. Rodgers had an off game, but looked OK. But toward the end of the fourth, when the Bucs made it 23-21, you could tell Green Bay was out of gas, and weren't going to be coming back. They need to pull away earlier when they have a chance in future games.

11. Minnesota over Tennessee: I know, the Titans are 3-0. And I know that Kerry Collins looks good so far. But with the pressure the Vikings were able to bring on Jake Delhomme last week, I think they can get to Collins and throw him off his game. And Adrian Peterson will not be denied his yards.

Tennessee 30-17. And...I was wrong again. The Titans ARE a good enough team that Kerry Collins is not a bad piece of the puzzle. All he has to do is not screw up, and the Titans will be fine. They are 4-0. These are the two teams at 4-0: The Titans and the Bills. (The Giants had a bye, and are 3-0.) And Minnesota is not a great team, but with that run defense and Adrian Peterson, they have shown they can put it all together once in a while and beat anyone on any given day. Just not the Titans on this day.

12. Cleveland over Cincinnatti: Both these teams are 0-3 dreadful so far, but Cleveland still has excellent talent and a real chance to turn it around and make the playoffs in the suddenly-weak AFC. Cincinnatti, on the other hand, may as well throw in the towel on this season right now. They are done.

Cleveland 20-12. After this game, Brady Anderson said the Browns "have their swagger back". It is a little premature to be "swaggering". They beat a truly dreadful team, when that team's best player wasn't even suited up. Carson Palmer is on the sidelines, and the Browns can still manage only an eight-point win? And it was closer than that - this was a brutal game to watch, and both teams are still brutal to watch. Don't look at Cleveland to take that run that was being predicted in the preseason any time soon.

13. New York Jets over Arizona: Toughest game of the week to call. The Cardinals have looked good this year, but turnovers killed them last week. The Jets have lost to the Patriots (enderstandable) and a Chargers team that finally managed to turn it on. The Cards are not the Pats or the Chargers. And the Jets, believe it or not, are thinking they have a shot at the playoffs with Favre at QB, the Colts floundering, and Brady gone for the season. Were this game in Arizona, I would pick the Cards without hesitation. But I think Favre will respond in a big way to the Monday night San Diego debacle, and come out firing. Jets in a squeaker.

Jets 56-35. Again, I was wrong. There was nothing "squeaker" about this game. But consider this - Brett Favre DID come out firing. He puts up 34 points on the Cards in the second quarter alone. The Jets go into half time with a 34-0 lead. And almost squander it in the third quarter! Favre had to come out and throw three more TD passes just to stay ahead of Kurt Warner and the Cardinals as they mounted a hard charge. The Jets defense is lousy. It's just that for three out of four quarters in this game, Kurt Warner was worse. Look for him to play better next week, and don't look for Favre to throw six TDs ina game again any time soon. The Jets aren't all that good. And the Cardinals aren't all that bad. But boy, did they look sloppy on Sunday!

Bye weeks: Indianapolis, New England, New York, Miami, Seattle, Detroit.

My record this week: 7-5. Overall: 36-23.

This was pretty cool.

I went to the Cirque Du Soleil show Corteo last night, and it confirmed for me something I have long suspected. Ballet and gymnastics can actually be entertaining! I watch gymnastics on TV, like in the Olympics, and I'm suitably impressed with what the first guy can do. But then, as the forty-eight competitors who follow do the exact same thing, I remain impressed but I become quickly bored. With ballet, there are occasional moments where something cool happens - like a guy throws a girl across the stage through the air. But the rest of the time is spent putting their arms in pretty positions, and pointing their toes. Neat. But again, I'm bored eleven seconds in. Cirque Du Soleil seems to have seen these things and taken the next logical step. Gymnastics shouldn't be a competition, it should be entertaining. And ballet shouldn't be pretty and twirly so much as it should be death-defying.

And both of these elements come together in a show that is truly amazing. All kinds of amazing athletic gymnasts - hot chicks gyrating on chandeliers and buff muscular dudes doing cool stuff in giant hula hoops - and stunts that actually do defy death. I have always resisted Cirque Du Soleil, for a few reasons. First of all, I disliked listening to their music over and over when I worked at CD Warehouse with a girl who insisted upon putting it on our CD player every day. It's music that really needs context - like, it would be cool to listen to it if you were watching a hot babe do an impressive high-wire act. But it doesn't work so much when you're walking around a store shopping. And secondly, I have always disliked both gymnastics and ballet, and Cirque Du Soleil really looked to be an irritating combination of both.

But no. Not irritating. I've always hated the Andrew Lloyd Webers of the world and their pop-classical garbage. It just feels like pandering and slickly produced dreck. Which it is. But it appeals to the masses, Weber makes buttloads of money, and I steer clear of the Phantom Of the Opera soundtrack at all times. Cirque Du Soleil does the same thing, but when it comes to ballet and gymnastics, slick dreck is exactly what they need. And it isn't pandering, it's merely taking the logical next step to make these things actually worth watching. And what amazed me about the first Cirque Du Soleil experience I have had was more than just the show itself, which is of course incredible. And it's more than just the inventiveness of the performance - whoever comes up with these scenarios and props is a genius of some kind. But more than that, it's the atmosphere around the show. Jugglers and stilt-walkers and dozens of friendly people offering free plates of food and eclairs and chicken burgers. A woman on stilts handed my girlfriend a flower when we walked in, and a young woman in angel wings handed me a chicken burger. Now that's service! Another woman took our picture, which we could then download and purchase moments later if we so chose. Dozens of friendly people who were most hostpitable and really added to the whole atmosphere in a very classy way. Go see Corteo if you get a chance.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm getting married. Cause I'm so suburban.

I have a tiny dog. I have a white fence in the backyard. I mow my lawn, I weed my patio, I have two cars and two kids and hardwood floors. And now, after several years of deliberation, I am giving myself over entirely to the suburban lifestyle, and getting married. Because I am too cheap to buy a ring, or in fact, too poor to buy one, I proposed to my girlfriend on Monday night using a wedding license application form. Yes, I am THAT romantic. I got the kids to slip it into a stack of other papers that demanded her perusal. She didn't cry, or anything. She just freaked out for a while, then shook for three hours, then called everyone she knew. I, on the other hand, am going to let everyone I know in on this by posting it on my blog. You may begin your taunts of "sellout" below.

This is also my way of determining whether Doc and Woody actually read my blog themselves. My guess is they won't even mention this until Monday of next week.

More weddings.

Anyone remember Ted, the traffic guy at CHEZ who did many of my stunts with me, looked just like me, and was constantly threatening to take my job? Well, he moved up to Timmins, where his experience with traffic and promo here in Ottawa translated into a job where he does traffic and promo and he's the website guy and the morning guy and the afternoon guy and the sales guy and the commercial writer and several other jobs. And now, he's married. I travelled to Ayton, Ontario to emcee his wedding to Heather, his long-time girlfriend. And by long-time I don't mean "more than six months" which is the cut-off I have used myself for many years. I mean, they have been together since they were six years old. Or something. Which does freak me out, I will admit, but there is still something terribly sweet and wholesome about the whole thing.

It took me a little more than six hours to get to Ayton, right after the show ended on Friday morning. Once I was there, I met up with the rest of the guys - Ted, Wes, Vern, and JR, who were already into the beer and a very intense game of ninja ball. (Which is also, from what I understand, called Newfie Horseshoes or Testicle Toss.) So I joined them in ninja ball. And drinking. And then we hit the local watering hole. In a town of 400 people, "local watering hole" really means "only watering hole". Delightfully small town, there were dozens of people in there participating in an underground poker game on the hush-hush. It was ten or eleven at night, and there was a six-year-old playing pool. There were some girls who looked to be thirteen serving bar patrons who looked to be fourteen. Every single person in the bar appeared to be an employee of the bar, going back in behind and serving themselves as the whim hit them. Awesome.

Then we hit the strip club (two towns over). This was, I found out, the fourth night in a row that these guys had been to this same place. And I didn't really understand that because for the fourth straight night, the same four strippers were working. The same four unpleasant butterface strippers. And they kept going back. It might have been for the combat juice, which is an amazing concoction that I guess is specific to the Ayton area that comes in a jug, gets you hammered very very fast, costs 30 bucks a jug (not just at the strip club but everywhere), and leaves no hangover. Amazing stuff. Anyone have a recipe for Combat Juice? I'd love to know what's in it. We had to leave the peelers when I stopped paying attention to one woman, and she became annoyed that no one was watching her, and as I had a conversation with one of the guys, she reached over and grabbed both of my nipples. As some of you know, I have a real nipple problem, where if someone suddenly grabs my nipples I break their arms or punch them or say, flip them over the table beside, say, a strip club stage. For example. Anyway, I ought never to go back. Although she seemed too out of it to be actually upset with me.

The wedding itself was small, quaint, and quick. For the second straight week, I attended a wedding where all the groomsmen and the groom dressed up in kilts. Only this time, they were all wearing converse shoes, and a few of them had chosen to go commando. After the wedding, we proceeded in a parade type fashion to the banquet hall, and along the way there were Ayton residents standing at the end of their driveways with beer bottles for both the bride and groom. Which was either some kind of Ayton tradition, or merely the manifestation of small-town values upon a small-town wedding. Either way, it brought a tear to my eye. The reception itself was very nice, although I felt like I did the worst wedding-emcee job I had ever done. I told the story of Ted's first-ever job in radio, where he had to hold a microphone near my junk while I was getting a brazilian wax done. And how I took the microphone from him in order to talk into it, and handed junk. And, not knowing what to do, as it was his first ever job, he held it until I handed him back the microphone. That was about the only laugh I got as emcee, but everyone said I did well. I think the nice thing about being a wedding emcee is that merely being comfortable with a microphone is enough, since all the other people who need to make speeches are usually terrified of the whole process.

I made it to my hotel (also two towns over), and couldn't call home. I had promised my girlfriend I would call her before I went to bed, and that I would make sure to do so from the motel, but I couldn't dial long distance. And there is no cell reception in any town within several miles of Ayton. So she was understandably angry when I finally contacted her the next day, as I was about to leave. The drive that had taken me a little over six hours on the way there took me eleven hours to come home. There was a major accident on the 401, and it was shut down both ways. I was in a traffic jam, barely moving, for four hours. I had intended to get home in time for supper and ask my girlfriend to marry me, what with all these weddings I have been attending wearing down my resistance and all, but that had to be postponed until Monday. More on that in the next post.

Tour stop #2...a success!

Here is a link to the video of Doc And Woody's Wake The Neighbours Tour stop #2:

In this video, you can see me playing a piano, dressed as Stephen Harper. It turns out all you need to look like Stephen Harper is a blue sweater-vest. Although I think perhaps the point of my song was missed...I had a quite a few people say to me afterward "yeah, great song, man! I hate that Stephane Dion too!" Which I think was missing the point entirely...perhaps it was not as effective a spoof as I had intended. Much like that puffin thing.

Next week, however, the main event at John Wright's house in Barrhaven will not be misunderstood. We are promoting an event called something like Punchup At Parliament, where a bunch of police officers will be boxing for charity. And although I would really enjoy taking the title of this event literally, and fighting Pierre Polievre, I guess that is not to be. I will be boxing a cop. Likely, a female cop, knowing Doc. The last time I fought a boxer, it was a woman then too...and there is someting about hitting a woman, even one who is a fighter (and a much better one than I am), that gives me pause. I don't like it and I can't do it. Which means I just get my ass totally beaten while trying to play defense. So...look for that to happen this week...