Saturday, January 26, 2008

Break-Up Songs

With less than three weeks until Valentine's Day, I figured it was time to determine the greatest break-up song of all-time.

I know that some of you are probably thinking: "What the hell does Valentine's Day have to do with break-up songs?" If we could all only be so innocent.

In my experience with the fairer sex, I've noticed some variance in pressure and expectations come mid-February. You know, the kind of pressure which demands you be the greatest Casanova this side of Venice, and the degree of expectations that are so impossible to live up to that the failure to deliver ultimately winds up destroying the relationship you've been working so hard to keep together... Not that I have anything to worry about in that regard, unassailably living the life of the poor man's Don Juan the way I invariably do.

Some people are fortunate enough to fight their way through the contrivance and machinations of this impending insignificant Hallmark holiday. But some others will sadly find themselves on the wrong end of impossible expectations, ultimately resulting in an email estranging at best.

So in anticipation of the iminent carnage, here are my five favourite break-up songs:

I Will Survive

This Gloria Gaynor classic was perfected by CAKE, and for my money, there are few cover tunes better than this one.

What makes this song for me is the unaffected way that front man John McCrea sings it, taking this highly emotional and empowering girl-anthem and making it so matter-of-fact that the fact doesn't even matter. Entirely comforting in that "she never meant anything to me, anyway" kind of way, if that's what you're looking for... That, and the fact that the line "I should have changed that stupid lock" was altered ever so slightly, in turn becoming one of my favourite lines in the history of rock and roll.

Bonus Coverage: a link to the best video of all-time.

Bad Liver and a Broken Heart

For the uninitiated (shame on you), here are the lyrics:

Well, I got a bad liver and a broken heart
Yeah, I drunk me a river since you tore me apart
And I don't have a drinking problem 'cept when I can't get a drink
And I wish you'd known her, we were quite a pair
She was sharp as a razor and soft as a prayer
So welcome to the continuing saga

She was my better half, and I was just a dog
And so here am I slumpedI've been chipped and I've been chumped on my stool
So buy this fool some spirits and libations
It's these railroad station bars
And all these conductors and the porters
And I'm all out of quarters

And this epitaph is the aftermath
Yeah, I choose my path, hey come on, Kath
He's a lawyer, he ain't the one for ya
No, the moon ain't romantic, it's intimidating as hell
And some guy's trying to sell me a watch
And so I'll meet you at the bottom of a bottle of bargain Scotch
I got me a bottle and a dream, it's so maudlin it seems

You can name your poison
Go on ahead and make some noise I ain't sentimental
This ain't a purchase, it's a rental, and it's purgatory
And hey, what's your story, well I don't even care
Cause I got my own double-cross to bear

And I'll see your Red Label, and I'll raise you one more
And you can pour me a cab, I just can't drink no more
Cause it don't douse the flames
that are started by dames,
It ain't like asbestos
It don't do nothing but rest us assured
And substantiate the rumors that you've heard

Is there anyone on the planet cooler than Tom Waits? The answer to that rhetorical question is, of course, not a chance. Nobody does the maudlin barroom crying-in-your-beer song like Tom Waits, and for my money, this is his finest. Try singing this one to yourself without getting choked up when you're a bottle of bargain Scotch deep and your best girl has trampled your heart by running off with some lawyer you could never hope to compete with. Impossible.

Tom Waits is neck-and-neck with Robert Zimmerman when it comes to securing the title of "best song writer of the past half-century"; no small feat when put up against this:

Don't Think Twice, It's Alright

This Dylan classic might be the all-time musical kiss-off. I love the quiet resignation and the sense that sometimes you can do everything in your power to make it work, and that sometimes that isn't even enough ("I'd give her my heart but she wanted my soul..."). Blame it on the way things go; on the way they are. And blame it on the ever increasing entropy; on the history of the universe.

The last lines of this song are some of my favourite in music, and to me, they harken back to the greatest literary kiss-off of all-time, which can be found in the final lines of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, when our boy Jake puts Brett in her place once and for all-time.

I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right



This song is the exact opposite of humble resignation. I have a good buddy who likes to say: "Don't be bitter; be better". Well, this is a song for those times when you'd just rather be bitter.

I love this live footage from Washington in 1994 because it reminds me of the first real rock show I ever attended (Green Day at the CNE Colesium in '94). The pan out to the crazy crowd surfing gave me a 'Nam-like flashback. You have to love Mike Dirnt stalking in the background like a caged tiger just itching to attack...

If your significant other has wronged you in an unfathomably cruel and devestating way, could there be anything more satisfying than screaming:

you're just a fuck
i can't explain it 'cause i think you suck
i'm taking pride
in telling you to fuck off and die

Song For The Dumped

"Give me my money back, you BITCH!" is still one of the funniest lines ever written; "And don't forget to give me back my black T-Shirt" is still one of the most honest.

Kudos to the Ben Folds Five for articulating what we've all felt at one time or another.

Obviously there are hundreds of other great break-up songs out there. Feel free to chime in in the Comments section with some of your favourites, and maybe we'll get around to listing some of them for the downhearted come the 14th.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Ubiquitous Plastic Bag

The cupboard beneath my kitchen sink is overflowing with them, and their mere presence in my house is the bane of my existence. We bought one of those clever containers from Ikea that are allegedly designed to neatly store an inordinate number of them in a tastefully decorative hideaway cylinder, but the ridiculous contraption never stood a chance. I try telling the girl with the eyebrow piercing at the local supermarket checkout that I'm OK and don't need one this time around, flashing her my moderately hip reusable cloth shopping bag with the slogan: "This is my Green Bag" tatooed across its face. I even bring bags filled with them to the old Korean lady who runs the fruit stand on the corner and never seems to have any of her own. I try stuffing them by the armful into the recycling box, but it never seems to make any difference. My cupboard's supply keeps growing, seemingly exponentially. My world is being overrun by plastic bags.

I came across a statistic today that actually made me utter aloud the exasperation: "What the fuck?!?!?" And that stastistical fact was: we produce approximately five trillion plastic bags each year. Five TRILLION?!?!? What the ?!?!? That's a 5 with 12 zeros behind it. That's 5,000,000,000,000 plastic bags!!! It's a number so long that, when written numerically, it doesn't even look like a number. Five trillion plastic bags A YEAR? Is this really necessary?

I'm not sure if you're aware of what goes into the making of a plastic bag, so here's a refresher for you: plastic bags are made with oil. Plastic bags start as crude oil, are transformed into polymers, and are eventually heated, shaped, and cooled. It is estimated that 12 million barrels of oil went into producing the 100 billion plastic bags that were used in the U.S. last year. Extrapolated to the number of bags produced worldwide (the small matter of that 5 trillion), that equates to roughly 600 million barrels of oil being consumed annually in order to produce our supply of plastic bags. Does this all seem a little extravagant to you?

Now, don't get me wrong: there is definitely a place in our world for the plastic bag. The plastic bag was a great invention, and it continues to be a great product. They're a higher quality bag than their paper cousin. They're much more durable and long lasting (some might say too long lasting), they're waterproof, they're recyclable... Lord knows they're great for lining garbage cans and for picking up dog shit with. I'm not calling for the banning of plastic bags. But what I am saying is that maybe we need to reconsider how many plastic bags we need. Because there's no way we need 5 trillion new plastic bags every year.

Plastic bag sympathizers will tell you that plastic bags are better than paper bags because they're recyclable. One problem with this argument is that it is estimated that less than 1% of plastic bags in the U.S. are recycled (0.6%, to be exact), making that rationalization a virutal moot point. Another problem with this argument is that I'm not saying that we should be reverting back to a paper bag society; what I'm saying is that we should be curtailing our plastic bag consumption in a major way.

Because we don't need 5,000,000,000,000 plastic bags. In fact, it's almost impossible to think of anything more superfluous. We've spent most of our lives in this throwaway culture, but it's nigh time we start thinking about moving away from that mindset, and into something a little more permanent. Something a little more sustainable. Something a little more grown-up.

Here are a few reasons why (statistics taken from The Bag Beast, by Michael Jessen):

- Every year more than 6 million tonnes of rubbish is dumped into the world’s oceans. In every square mile of ocean it is estimated that there are over 46,000 pieces of plastic.

- Well over a billion single-use plastic bags are given out for free every day.

- Each year, Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags. Only 0.6 percent of plastic bags are recycled.

- The toxic chemical ingredients needed to make plastic produces pollution during the manufacturing process.

- Collection, hauling and disposal of plastic bag waste create an additional environmental impact. An estimated 8 billion pounds of plastic bags, wraps and sacks enter the waste stream every year in the US alone, putting an unnecessary burden on diminishing landfill space and causing air pollution if incinerated.

- In a landfill, plastic bags take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. As litter, they break down into tiny bits, contaminating both soil and water.

But perhaps most telling, and certainly most terrifying of all, is the following story, recounted by Captain Charles Moore.

After finishing the 1997 Los Angeles-to-Hawaii sail race known as the Transpac, Captain Moore and the crew of the Alguita sailed through the North Pacific subtropical gyre – the great high-pressure system in the central Pacific Ocean that, most of the time, is centred halfway between Hawaii and the mainland North America.

"I often struggle to find words that will communicate the vastness of the Pacific Ocean to people who have never been to sea," wrote Moore. "Day after day, Algulita was the only vehicle on a highway without landmarks, stretching from horizon to horizon. Yet as I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean, I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic".

"It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments. Months later, after I discussed what I had seen with the oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, perhaps the world's leading expert on flotsam, he began referring to the area as the "eastern garbage patch." But "patch" doesn't begin to convey the reality. Ebbesmeyer has estimated that the area, nearly covered with floating plastic debris, is roughly the size of Texas."

Is there any answer for this type of astounding disregard for the natural environment? Ireland might be on the right track with a solution. In March of 2002, the Irish government implemented a $0.15 "plas tax" on each plastic bag used at the checkout counter. As you might expect, the results were almost immediate. People began bringing their small portions of their cupboards-supply of existing plastic bags to the supermarket to avoid paying the "green nanny state" imposed tariff. They not only purchased those large, durable, reusable cloth shopping bags, but they actually used them for bringin their groceries home. It is estimated that the "plas tax" cut plastic bag consumption by some 95% in Ireland, and in turn raised $9.6 million dollars in its inaugural year; a sum of money which the Irish government currently has earmarked for "green" waste management and environmental initiatives.

Imagine: less plastic bags, and more money for recycling, clean water, and green roof initiatives. Finally, a tax that we can all get behind.

Don't get me wong: by no means is a reduction in the number of plastic bags the cure for all that ails this planet. But it's a start. Maybe we reduce production from 5 trillion to 1 trillion, and then from 1 trillion to 500 billion... They seem like large steps, I know, but they're steps in the right direction. And they're steps that can be easily taken.

Don't be an idiot by throwing your plastic shit on the ground, or worse yet, in the water. Buy yourself one of those sufficiently sophisitcated, extra large cloth shopping bags you see all of the young hipsters walking the city streets with. And say "no thanks" the next time you go to the corner store and realize you're a responsible adult and quite capable of carrying that loaf of bread with your bare hands (it is, afterall, already packaged in one bag).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Superbowl XLII - Pats vs. Giants

As if Boston sports fans didn't have enough to get excited about this year, they now have the chance to cap off the perfect season by knocking off a New York based team. And from what I know about Bostonians, the only thing they like better than winning is winning against teams from New York.

So in anticipation of the Boston-New York Superbowl, here is the tale of the tape for the four major rivalries between these two great cities:

Celtics vs. Knicks

New York Times
April 26, 1988

From the beginning of the National Basketball Association in 1946, the rivalry between the Knicks and the Celtics, the only two original franchises still in the same cities, has grown into one sport's fiercest.

Bostonians and New Yorkers have argued over their cities' respective merits and accomplishments since before the Revolution. They have tried to outdo each other in politics, science, art and almost everything else.

''I think it's an underlying city rivalry. It's the cities themselves. The rivarlry is not only in basketball, but baseball and hockey also."

The basketball rivalry can probably be laid to the personal rivalry between Walter Brown, the original Celtic owner, and Ned Irish, the Knicks' first president.

They were both intense promoters looking for an edge. But while Brown often was forced to operate the Celtics on a shoestring, playing second fiddle in popularity to the Boston Bruins, Irish had the backing of the rich ownership of Madison Square Garden.

In the 1950's, when pro basketball doubleheaders were commonplace at the old Garden, Irish would pay Brown to bring the Celtics into the Garden as the second game.

Through the haze of three decades, there are the memories of Bob Brannum and Harry Gallatin muscling each other, of the way Jim Loscutoff would take out his frustration on Kenny Sears and of the day that Al McGuire, after doing an outstanding job against Bob Cousy, stood in the Knicks' dressing room after the game, his fist clenched, proclaiming, ''I own Cous.''

Then a few years later came the glory years of the Russell-led Celtics, when the Knicks would go to Boston Garden time after time and be beaten to a pulp.

To read more about this rivalry, click HERE

Rangers vs. Bruins

I have no idea what caused this brawl, but it makes the Malice at The Palace look like a slapping match between two girls who can't remember which Barbie Doll belongs to whom. Wow.

Red Sox vs. Yankees

As evidenced by this video shot by a Red Sox fan walking into the bleachers wearing his Sox cap, to say that Yankees fans don't like Sox fans would be like saying that maybe the Sox should have reconsidered before selling Babe Ruth to their division rivals down in the Bronx.

For a history of the Sox-Yankees rivalry, feel free to pick up any baseball related article Bill Simmons has ever written.

Giants vs. Pats

They played the game of the year back in Week 17, and the good karma manufactured by the Giants not resting their starters in an attempt to keep the Pats from becoming the first NFL team to go 16-0 in the regular season has propelled the G-men all the way to Glendale.

Not only was this a ridiculously exciting game to watch, it also provided football fans with the single most significant statistical play in the history of the sport. The TD pass was Brady's 50th of the year (a new NFL record); the TD reception was Moss's 23rd of the year (a new NFL record); and the points gave New England 582 on the season, establishing a new NFL regular season record.

Let's just hope that, unlike Teen Wolf Too, this year's sequel can live up to the original.

The Stalker Song

I won't lie to you: you do some regrettable things when you're locked in a hotel room for three weeks at a time. You know, things like... watching the season premiere of American Idol. I honestly felt like the sequestered jurors in "A Time To Kill" who knew that they weren't supposed to talk about the case, but insisted on doing so at dinner because they simply had nothing better to do. And I felt a little dirty afterwards.

But let me tell you: Paul Marturano made it all worth while.

This little diddy is hysterical on so many levels. First of all, if the look of this guy doesn't scream "pedophile", then I don't know what does. From the bad shirt showing way too much man-cleavage right down to the Wal-Mart brand jeans tucked into the tongues of his velcro shoes, this guy is clearly a first-ballot candidate for surgically implanted GPS tracking devices.

Randy shows some serious chivalry by laughing at the whole thing and basically ignoring an obviously terrified Paula as she turns to him in a desperate outreach for help, with Randy's disregard for her going so far as to clap at the end of it all. You can practically hear him thinking: "Hey baby, that's what you get for sleeping with half the contestants!" And the only person willing to intervene gets shrugged off by the second coming of Richard Ramirez, who "SHHshes" the show's producer and explains in no uncertain terms: "You're ruining the moment, Simon". Nobody likes a game killer.

And then there's the song itself. It's a virtuosic display of poetic mediocrity and deranged genius, a dying genre in this artistically watered-down day and age:

If I were Columbo, I'd Peter Falk her...

If she were a bathtub... (pregnant pause for dramatic effect, prolonging the inevitable climax)... I would CAULK her!!!

Are you kidding me? That's Gold Jerry! GOLD!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

What do you do when you're trapped in Cleveland for 3 weeks, it's -25 degrees, the Browns have been screwed out of their rightful spot in the playoffs, the Indians front office is in the midst of making a travesty of their once glorious home, and the Lebron and the Cavs are out of town for an extended period in order to accommodate "Disney's High School Musical on Ice"? Well, you can always sit in the fifth row and witness the biggest upset in the history of Cleveland State basketball... And you can hit up the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

My dad has been telling me for years that I have to get to the Rock and Roll HOF. He and my mom hit it up on their way home from Tennessee a few years back, and actually bumped into Peter Frampton inside. Now, my dad is an absolute music junkie. Ask him about the most obscure musical trivia dealing with anything between Feb. 7, 1964 and the release of Springsteen's Nebraska, and chances are he'll not only give you the answer, but he'll provide an interesting little anecdote explaining exactly why that obscure fact might be relevant. It's uncanny. And despite the fact that this propensity for summoning seemingly insignificant minutiae was an endless source of fascination and education for me, I wasn't quite sold on the idea of an entire museum dedicated to twangy trinkets and beat up guitars.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

A co-worker of mine doubles in another life as a tour guide at the Rock, in much the same way that yours truly doubles as a multinational blogging magnate (insert laugh track here), and BS was kind enough to take me and two buddies for a three hour tour Wednesday night... And to say that I was blown away would be like saying that Jim Morrison enjoyed the occasional cold one to take the edge off. As soon as we walked in, we were hit smack dab with the Beach Boys exhibit. Brian Wilson's hand-written lyrics to God Only Knows were worth the price of admission alone. Love the fact that they used to be called The Pendletones.

There was some totally amazing Beatles stuff, including some of John Lennon's report cards. To say that he was an underachiever in school would be to put it kindly (I think he received 3% in math... I didn't even think that was possible). We saw Johnny Cash's guitar and Ray Manzarek's organ. We saw some of the threads worn by The Who (they were smaller guys than you might think), and the piano that Ian Hunter wrote Cleveland Rocks on. One of the coolest things, I thought, was the display of artwork that Jimi Hendrix had compiled in his youth. Paintings, sketches, a touching birthday card to his dad... it was all brilliant stuff. As BS pointed out: "some guys are just blessed with way too much talent".

I loved the section dedicated to the music coming out of various cities. Memphis was a veritable sweatshop of musical genius, with Sam Phillips and his Sun Records studios producing the likes of Elvis, Johnny, Roy, and Jerry Lee. Factor in the Bluesmen that came from that region (Muddy, B.B., Memphis Minnie), and you could literally dedicate an entire HOF to The River City. A couple of my favourite articles were the hat that Robert Johnson is wearing in that famous picture of his, and the briefcase Howlin' Wolf used to carry around with him. Legend has it that he was of that same ilk as Chuck Berry, in that he wouldn't get on stage until the money was in his briefcase.

The Rolling Stones bar tab was something to marvel at, and the old concert posters give you some indication into how ticketmaster has essentially ruined the concert going experience by jacking the prices to the point where you can't realistically afford to go see the big time shows anymore, let alone The Rock and Roll Revival type extravaganzas (a lineup in 1969 that included John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, The Doors, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Alice Cooper, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Junior Walker and The All Stars, Chicago Transit Authority... FOR $6!!!).

The hall of fame isn't without its fair share of tragedy. It's amazing when you think about how many great artists were taken before their time. Buddy Holly (I will never get over the fact that he produced the body of work he did before the age of 23), Otis Redding (they actually have pieces of the plane on display - a little too morbid for my liking), Robert Johnson, Janis Joplin, Marvin Gaye, Kurt Cobain... Again, there could be an entire museum dedicated to the genius we were robbed of.

But perhaps what I like best about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the way in which each member is enshrined: not with a plaque or a photo, but with their autographs on this funky flourescent wall. It was amazing to see all of those signatures in one place, and as you're going over them in this dark, seemingly subterranean hallway, you can hear their music playing in the theatre surrounding the signatures... It really is quite something.

Obviously, the video footage is out of this world, and to be honest, we didn't even begin to scratch the surface of what's inside that shrine. If I lived in Cleveland, there's little doubt in my mind that I would be volunteering in that place, doing everything I could to learn as much as I could from the unfathomable wealth of information. I remember my dad telling me that I would need an entire day to look around there, and I didn't believe him. Having been there for just a little over three hours, I can honestly say that I'd need a solid week to see everything I wanted to see. There's just that much good stuff.

I'll leave you with one more anecdote. We were walking through one of the exhibits, and BS, our insanely knowledgeable guide, pulled me aside and implored me to look at this scrap of paper. It was the handwritten lyrics to Save The Last Dance, a song written by the briliantly gifted Doc Pomus (Teenager in Love, Little Sister, Surrender, Viva Las Vegas...) and perfected by The Drifters. BS pointed out to that, if you looked closely, the lyrics were written on the back of a wedding invitation; and that if you were to look even closer, you'd realize that the invitation was to Doc's own wedding.

BS then pointed to a photograph next to the lyrics. The shot was of a man on crutches, clearly unable to get around without assistance. It turns out that Doc had polio, and was basicly unable to walk. He wrote that song while sitting there watching his bride dance with other men all night, hoping that she'd save the last dance for him.

I had goosebumps the size of the lump in my throat.

Don Wittman

Longtime CBC broadcaster Don Wittman dies of cancer at age 71

By The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG - Don Wittman, whose smooth baritone voice called some of Canada's most significant sports, has died of cancer. He was 71.

For more than 40 years, Wittman was a familiar face on CBC television. He did the play-by-play for Grey Cups and Stanley Cups, plus covered curling, golf and track and field. He was a fixture at both summer and winter Olympics.

"He is truly a first-generation television sports legend. He's one of the pioneers of our industry," Scott Moore, executive director of CBC Sports, said in January.

"He has done almost everything and done it all well."

Wittman died early Saturday morning in a Winnipeg hospital surrounded by his family.

"The family wishes to acknowledge the tremendous outpouring of support Don received from friends, colleagues and fans. Thanks to everyone for respecting our privacy at this time," Wittman's family said in a statement on the CBC's website.

It was Wittman who called Ben Johnson's steroid-fuelled 100-metre victory at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and he was on hand when Donovan Bailey sprinted to gold in the same event in 1996 at Atlanta.

CBC broadcaster Scott Russell, who worked with Wittman at several Olympic and Canada Games, called him "the most unselfish broadcaster I've ever worked with."

"Don always believed that his job was to be the guide of a sporting event," Russell said in Vancouver, where he is covering the Canadian figure skating championships. "He took us through, he introduced us to the characters, then he let the athletes shine. Don was the guide, he was the storyteller. That's what made him great."

Wittman saw Wayne Gretzky win Stanley Cups and was in Czechoslovakia in 1987 for the Canada-USSR brawl at the world junior hockey championships.

During the 1972 Olympics in Munich he stood on a balcony and looked into the masked face of one of the terrorists who kidnapped nine Israeli athletes.

"It was then the reality of it really struck me," Wittman said in a 1984 interview about the incident. "Here was this man with a hood over his face standing there."

Colleen Jones, a two-time women's world curling champion and a broadcasting colleague, credits Wittman for the rise in popularity of her sport.

"It was his ability to be a wonderful storyteller and weave the stories that he was so strong at," Jones said from her Halifax home. "And the creating drama, and his voice obviously was fantastic. All of that just lent itself to just being the best."

Born in Herbert, Sask., Wittman got his start as a news reporter with CFQC radio in Saskatoon in 1955. He also worked for CJNB radio in North Battleford. He was only 24 when he joined CBC Winnipeg on New Year's Day 1961.

During his career, Wittman won two ACTRA awards and in 2002 was named Broadcaster of the Year by Sports Media Canada. He also was a member of the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame, the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame and Manitoba's provincial sports hall of fame.

"He is the voice of football in Canada in my mind," said Moore, who grew up in Montreal watching Wittman call Alouettes games.

Both Russell and Jones will remember Wittman for his willingness to teach younger reporters.

"He always was available to you," said Russell. "He was somebody you learned from, the proper way to do things, the right way to announce. He was meticulous in the research he did. What was great about Don too, was he believed in all things Canadian in sport. The Grey Cup, curling . . ."

Jones, who first worked with Wittman at the 1987 Scott Tournament of Hearts, said he taught her much in his painstaking preparation for his broadcasts.

"You always knew he was a legend and I learned a lot from him," Jones said. "He never just mailed it in, he always wanted to be just so professional, so prepared and so ready, so wanting to do a great show.

"He loved all the sports and he loved broadcasting. He was always thrilled to be such an eyewitness to all of the big events."

The respect held for Wittman was evident at a ceremony in January, when he was inducted into the CBC Sports Hall of Fame. The guest list was a who's-who of the sports world. Hockey Night In Canada's Ron McLean, Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Lyle Bauer and New York Rangers GM Glen Sather were among those on hand. Wayne Gretzky and others sent video tributes.

Wittman was choked with emotion, saying he was humbled by the tributes.

Wittman is survived by his wife Judy, two daughters and a son.

It is truly a sad day in the world of Canadian sports broadcasting. The Olympics will never be the same.

We will miss you Don.

Everyday Normal Muthaf*cka - Watch more free videos

It's tough for a sequel to live up to the original, but this one comes damn close. And for the record, I also have good memories from my childhood, BITCH!

"Why the fuck did Leonardo DiCaprio have to die?"

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Siberian Throat Singing

"Words have completely abandoned me."

- J.P.

To learn more about the heretofore unheralded world of Siberian Throat Singing, click on this link.

And feel free to check out the website for Yat Kha, who, from what I can gather, are The Beatles of the Siberian Throat Singing world.

Bonus Track: A Siberian Throat Singing cover of Nirvana's Rape Me... You really can't make this stuff up.

BugotakKaar Mege (Nirvana's Rape Me)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sportscaster Showdown


This is a tough one to call. On the one hand, you have Tom from Huntington University looking about as comfortable as a musical theatre student at a bachelor party. I absolutely lost it when he pounded the news desk like a Harry-Potter-reading Dennis Green, and the fact that he actually asks for a mulligan is unparalleled in the world of news broadcasting. But still, you need to be able to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming Lauren the teleprompter girl while looking like you're about to go on a killing spree in a milk truck doesn't exactly exhibit the kind of ice-in-your-veins cool that we're looking for.

Because the truth is, it's like the great Ric Flair once said: "To be the best, you need to beat the best". And clearly, the Boom Goes the Dynamite kid is playing chess while the rest of the fledgling college local access wannabes are playing checkers.

This is an absolute tour de force as far as on-air awkwardness is concerned. It's almost like someone slipped rohypnol in poor Brian's ovaltine and just let the cameras roll.

For beginners, I think it's safe to say that my Grandmother knows more about sports than Brian Collins. For example, if the Ball State women's softball team loses 6-0, it's hard to imagine how they could have "started off good, but then eventually.. (indecipherable)... the Ball State women's team was shot down, and ended up doing poorly." His inability to follow a teleprompter is almost lost in the fact that he allows the highlights to reel in silence for mezmerizingly long stretches (an homage to Andy Kaufman, no doubt), and actually manages to mispronounce every single name over the course of a four minute span (Wayne SUMMERS!!!).

But despite the endless barage of seemingly unforgivable blunders, he somehow miraculously manages to pull the iron from the fire with that one brilliant catchphrase... And sure, he probably isn't even talking about the same highlight we're watching, but the guy is clearly a savant, and that's just part of the beauty of going with the generic: "later he gets the rebound, passes it to the man, shoots it, and... BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!"

(For the record, my co-ed basketball team {The City All-Stars} has its inaugural game Tuesday night, and despite the fact that I won't be there to incessently turn the ball over and miss wide open jumpers, you can bet your throwback Rick Barry jersey that the first time I drain a big three, I'll be screaming "BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!", before doing the Sam Cassell "big balls" dance and swatting the next 5'3 housewife brave enough to bring it in my house.)

I have no idea why he sighs in defeat and hangs his head in shame at the merciful end of it all, but I'm of the belief that if Brian Collins and Miss Teen South Carolina were to procreate, the universe as we know it would almost certainly spontaneously dematerialize.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Jessica Simpson: The 21st Century Memo Paris


Not to beat an obvious analogy to death, but I think today's game pretty well solidified Jessica Simpson's place in the realm of 21st century sports as the ultimate anti-muse.

For those of you unfamiliar with the work of Memo Paris, her role in the Robert Redford classic "The Natural" is best described by sparknotes, which states: "the role of Memo Paris is fairly obvious: she is the destructive force, the antithesis to the hero that leads to his downfall." Ouch. Harsh words to describe the modern day Daisy Duke, I know, but the evidence seems to suggest just that. As Seven from Unsportsmanlike Comment points out:

Signs she's bad luck: Hmm, let’s see … Lachey has been reduced to making appearances at home games of the Triple-A baseball teams he owns and hosting a show about choirs. Cook did those hideous “It’s October” commercials and cemented his status as the unfunniest man in America. He still hasn’t realized he’s a total joke. Levine is still putting out shitty songs. Same with Mayer. And Romo basically played an entire game with one hand around his choking neck with Simpson in attendance.

The truth is, I really do feel bad for Tony Romo. He seems like a genuinely good guy, and he's an even better quarterback. He played a hell of a game today, and if his receivers reel in half of those horrifically dropped passes (I'm looking at you, Patrick Crayton), the Cowboys win this game going away. But he'll take the brunt of the blame because he's dating an infamous starlet, and because he spent three days in Mexico during his week off (it should be noted that the Cowboys two best offensive players today were Romo and Jason Witten, both of which were in Mexico last week).

And to be honest, it's hard to blame Romo for dating Jessica Simpson. I think Bill Simmons explained it best when he pointed out in one of his podcasts that, the thing we forget about celebrities is that most of them were everyday normal people like the rest of us at one point in their lives, and then all of a sudden they became famous, and were suddenly handed all of the benefits of fame (you know, like being in the position which allows you to date other famous people), when deep down inside, they're still those normal people they were before. So Tony Romo thinks to himself, "Holy shit! I can't believe I have the chance to date Jessica Simpson!", and because this was a prospect that was so out of the realm of possibility in his former life, he goes ahead and dates her because, among other things, he's afforded the opportunity of calling up his buddies back home in order to brag about the fact that Jessica Simpson is currently naked in his bed, and this more than makes up for the fact that they probably have absolutely nothing in common or that she may or may not wind up sabotaging his career. And Jessica Simpson thinks to herself "I can't believe I have a chance to date the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys!..." (undoubtedly her most profound thought on that particular day)...

And that, in a nutshell, is why you always see famous people dating other famous people, and why those relationships usually end somewhere down the road... Because the two celebrities eventually realize that they don't actually like one another, and the only reason they were dating the other in the first place was because that person was famous.

So Cowboys fans, have no fear. By the time next season rolls around, Tony Romo will be dating some new celebrity, and he'll probably wind up taking your team to the Superbowl.

For a fantasticly in-depth analysis of the Simpson-Paris corollary, check out this piece on Unsportsmanlike Comment. Definitely worth the read.

As for Wade Phillips, this loss serves him right for benching Doug Flutie in favour of Rob Johnson in the Music City Miracle game back in 2000, an indefensible sin for which he will continue to pay for all of eternity. Fans of his teams can expect similar results for the duration of his coaching career, and rightly so.

And finally, who would have ever guessed that Eli would go deeper into the playoffs than Peyton? I'm at a loss for words.

Cheaters Never Prosper

Just leave it to Billy Volek and Darren Sproles to go off and ruin the first ever "Cheater Bowl" by upsetting Peyton Manning and the pumping-artificial-crowd-noise-through-the-speaker-system Indianapolis Colts (I still can't get over this clip, when the "crowd noise CD" skips; really, if you're gonna blast fake noise through the speakers, at least make sure your CD doesn't have any scratches on it - that's cheating 101).

And despite the fact that I was openly rooting for the Chargers to knock off the Colts, I can't help but feel a little disapointed by the fact that we won't get to see the Indy-New England rematch. The game back in November was a classic, and the Colts-Pats AFC Championship game has become the pseudo Superbowl and a winter rite-of-passage of late.

Let's just hope that the Giants can knock off Jessica Simpson's boyfriend's team so we can see Brett Favre in another January game at Lambeau. Damn was that fun last night.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Wedding Reception Performance Showdown



So far, 2008 is looking like the year of the wedding. As it stands right now, no less than five of my very good friends are systematically ending their lives as they know them... by which I mean: no less than five of my very good friends will be riding off into the sunset of legally mandated marital bliss in this, The Year of the Rat.

So in order to get us further into the betrothing spirit, here are three supremely entertaining wedding reception performance clips for your viewing pleasure.

I like the fact that Clip #1 comes out of nowhere with a pretty ridiculously choreographed booty-shake, but I just can't get past the fact that they're bastardizing a Righteous Brothers classic in the process. Bonus points for choosing a wedding song with the lyric, "LA face with a Oakland booty!", but the whole routine is just a little too contrived for me.

Clip #2 is an indisputable classic, and oftentimes summarizes the way I feel at weddings. What can I say? Some people get emotional over the damndest things.

But I think you have to give the nod to Clip #3. I won't lie to you: this has always been kind of a dream of mine; to get up in front of a non-karaoke crowd in a quasi-pressure packed, meaningful setting, to be at least a dozen or so beverages deep, and to be able to blow everyone away with a near-note-perfect rocking version of a Springsteen classic. This version literally has it all; from the surprisingly adequate wedding band and the crowd participation, to the improvised, setting-appropriate lyrics ("her and her husband Kevin, they're still together... two hours gone by now!" - classic). This performance just goes to show that good things really can come from being locked into a setting where the single-guy-to-single-girl ratio is 19-1.

Needless to say, Blake from The Queen City is welcome at any wedding I'm participating in from here on in.

A somewhat famous man once said: "Love is a beautiful thing. It should not be shied away from, but rather, embraced, and held close to the bosom." I couldn't agree more.

Happy hitching in 2008!

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Comeback

It was 15 years ago, yesterday, that the Buffalo Bills engineered the greatest comeback in the history of professional sports. I was an impressionable 14-year old at the time, and it's hard to think of a time in life when sports means more than when you're in that 14-15 year old range - no driver's license, no hint of a girlfriend on the horizon, senses haven't begun to be dulled by the effects of alcohol, your veins are already pumping with that teenaged agnst and emotion... 1993 really was a perfect sporting storm for me, so it came as no coincidence that the year offered up the three most important fan-moments in my life ("The Comeback", Borschevsky's goal, and Joe Carter's Home run).

But it all began with a blacked-out game in Orchard Park. Amazingly, the Bills didn't sell enough tickets to lift the local ban, so I was forced to listen to this classic on my clock-radio in my bedroom. When it was 28-3 at the half, I could have just as easily gotten on with my life by moshing alone to Nirvana, but I decided to stick with it because, even at such a young age, I was a masochist. This was one of those rare occasions when it actually paid off.

Everybody knows that Frank Reich was the man who led the Bills into that ridiculous second half (Hall of Famer Jim Kelly missed the game with a bad knee - he'd injured it the week before in a 27-3 beating at the hands of, improbably: The Oilers), but what I'd completely forgotten about was the fact that Thurman Thomas, all-world RB and future Hall of Famer, had to leave this game 3 plays into the second half with a bad hip. After Frank Reich threw an interception that Bubba McDowell returned 58-yards for a TD, the Bills were down 35-3, and fans began heading for the exits.

Cue the greatest comeback in the history of modern civilization (Recap Courtesy of

After allowing the INT-return touchdown, the Bills drove 50 yards in 10 plays on their next possession, capping the drive on a Kenneth Davis' one-yard touchdown run. Houston 35, Buffalo 10.

Bills kicker Steve Christie then recovered his own onside kick. Four plays later, Bills quarterback Frank Reich, starting for an injured Jim Kelly, connected with Don Beebe on a 38-yard touchdown. Houston 35, Buffalo 17.

The Bills' defense produced a three-and-out on the ensuing Houston possession and Buffalo took over on its own 41-yard line. Five plays later, Reich hit Andre Reed for a 26-yard touchdown. Houston 35, Buffalo 24.

Two plays into the Oilers' next drive, Bills safety Henry Jones intercepted a deflected Moon pass and returned it 15 yards to the Houston 23-yard line. The Bills gained five yards on three plays and faced a fourth-and-five. Time out, Buffalo. Reich convinced Levy to go for it on fourth down. He then saw Reed break away from the safety and hit him on the goal line for 18 yards and a touchdown. Houston 35, Buffalo 31.

In a span of six minutes and 52 seconds, the Bills had cut their deficit from 32 points to four.

After the teams traded punts, Moon led the Oilers on a 76-yard drive early in the fourth quarter over seven-and-a-half minutes. Houston then caught a break. A Buffalo interception was wiped out by a penalty called on the Bills' for a late-hit foul against Moon.

The Oilers reached the Buffalo 14-yard line and set up for a field goal. It was then that the Bills received some help from above - it started raining. Montgomery fumbled the snap and kicker Al Del Greco recovered but the Oilers had turned the ball over on downs.

Buffalo then drove 74 yards in seven plays into the wind, taking the lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Reich to Reed - the duo's third scoring connection in little more than 16 minutes. Buffalo 38, Houston 35.

Moon then led Houston 63 yards in 12 plays, setting up the game-tying 26-yard Del Greco field goal with 12 seconds remaining. Buffalo 38, Houston 38.

The game went to overtime and the Oilers won the coin flip but after two completions for seven yards, Moon faced a third-and three from the Houston 27. It was then that Bills safety Nate Odomes stepped in front of a Moon pass at the 37 and returned it to the 35. The Bills gained 15 more yards on a penalty when Odomes was grabbed by his facemask.

After two Davis rushes for six yards, Christie kicked a 32-yard field goal 3:06 into overtime. Buffalo 41, Houston 38.

By the time Christie (the pride of Oakville, ON) drilled that 32-yarder, my buddy Dunner was over at my place listening to the game with me in my bedroom, and I tackled him in an uncontrollable homoerotic man-hug of joy reminiscent of the homoerotic man-hug by which all homoerotic man-hugs are judged. To that point, it was the single greatest moment of my life.

Inexplicably, there isn't a decent YouTube clip of "The Comeback" available out there. For the time being, all I can give you is this:

Feel free to skip ahead to the 3:30 mark, but do so with the knowledge that you'll be skipping over a sporting montage set to Van Halen's Top of the World.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Everyday Normal Guy

This has to be the early favourite to take home song of the year at The Grammys.

Don't know much about Jon Lajoie, but here's a link to his site.

For the record, I also hurt my back two summers ago and ever since then, it really hasn't been the same... And I'm likewise of the opinion that the amount of money saved by taking public transportation is "off the hook".

"I make pretty good spaghetti sauce, MUTHAFUCKA!!!"