Friday, February 29, 2008

Know Your Malts

I have no idea why, but I found this review to be entirely essential reading. Maybe it's because I'm not man enough to swill on forties (the one night in University when I tried drinking Colt 45s, I ended up getting emasculated and annihilated in a game of Beirut at the hands of a sober girl, and wound up with a three day hangover that resulted in my sleeping through St. John's shot at winning a share of the Big East regular season title {they lost 74-70 in OT to Miami, for the record}, and my missing the next two days of class). Maybe it's because I'm 30 years old and still haven't found anyone willing to play Edward 40-Hands with me. Or maybe it's because I'm going out to Sneaky Dees for my cousin's 19th birthday tonight and will probably wind up drinking beer comparable in quality to those described below.

Whatever the reason might be, here is everything you ever needed to know about Malt Liquor.

40 Ounces of Fury: The Definitive Malt Liquor Taste Test

The beer so strong they don’t even call it beer — they call it liquor. The brew from the bad part of town, the staple of gangstas and punk rockers, barrios and trailer parks. Strong, cheap and raw. Served up in a big bottle that hangs in your hand like a blackjack. Named after large man-killing animals and high-powered firearms. Activist groups say it causes violence, yuppies say it tastes like poison, experienced users know it dishes out mule-kick hangovers. That’s right, baby, we’re talking malt liquor.

Colt 45
Alcohol Content: 5.61%
AKA: Billy Dog, Billy D Juice.
Rep: The grand daddy of malt liquors.“Works every time,” as Billy Dee Williams liked to say, but works at doing what? Notorious for green batches, three different samples revealed the same result: flat, skunky and raw. This is what the President of MADD suspects malt liquor tastes like and if you want to experience the dark side of malt liquor, jump on this evil bronco.
Aesthetics: The label has changed very little since it hit the market in the 60s, and why should it? To some people it’s as recognizable and comforting as Aunt Jemima.
Trivia: Though it’s militant moniker refers to the fact it once came in a 45 ounce bottle and gives a bigger “bang” for the buck, Colt .45 has always been careful to never show a gun in their advertising, so they won’t be sued by Colt Firearms, maker of the famed Colt .45 pistol.
Flava: 5
Street Cred: 8
Power: 5

To read more about the wonderful world of Malt Liquor, click HERE.

Kent Huskins - The Human Highlight Reel

I've been looking for a clip of this goal for awhile now, and it looks like it's finally surfaced. Apparently this little homage to Bobby Orr landed Huskerdu on TSN's Plays of the Week.

I have to say, when the smooth skating defenceman suited up for the Prime Timers a few years back against that semi-professional girls' team, he definitely did NOT exhibit the same form shown here... Looks like he's been working on that one in the basement.

Bonus Coverage: A Chris Myers-esque profile done for The Element.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jimmy Kimmel + Ben Affleck

I won't lie to you. I wasn't sold on posting this clip at first. The fact is, I saw Sarah Silverman's "I'm F%cking Matt Damon" video about a month ago and really didn't think it was all that funny. Cute, yes, but not the kind of thing I thought people just had to see. So when I had Jimmy's response forwarded to me earlier today, I didn't even bother to watch it right away.

That was obviously a mistake on my part, because this is nothing short of comedic genius. I guess what The Veronicas say is true, at least in Jimmy's case anyway: Revenge is sweeter than you ever were.

The nod to "We Are The World" is priceless, and I could probably watch the part with Robin Williams shooting himself in the face with water a thousand times without having it lose a single ounce of hilarity. I love Harrison Ford's paying homage to American Graffiti, and I'd pretty well pay anything for a bumper sticker that reads "Honk if you're F#cking Ben Affleck"; I can't imagine anything looking better on the back of a '99 VW.

Above everything else, I guess the moral of the story here is that I'll post just about anything that involves two dudes wearing cutoff jean shorts with the pockets hanging out... That, and don't f*ck with Jimmy Kimmel. Obviously.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Recommended Reading: Books you need to read, and the reasons you need to read them

Back in high school, the best teacher I ever had; the inimitable Mr. Hamish Guthrie; spent the entirety of our very first OAC English class standing before us for an hour and a half with a pile of books scattered across his desk, randomly selecting weathered paperbacks from the heap and getting increasingly more animated and enthusiastic with each title he picked out. First it was The Catcher in the Rye; then it was On The Road. He would describe them as if he had lived the lives of those characters himself, and the stories he revealed were so vivid and exciting that you’d have to be a fool not to want to read them yourself. Then he'd catch a glimpse of a David Gilmour book or something by Brian Moore and be hardly able to contain himself, expressing a kind of heretofore-unheard-of reverence about how this or that novel might just be the best book ever written… That is, until he’d pick up the next great work; Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, or Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; and suddenly that particular work was the finest achievement in all of the English language…

On and on it went, and we found ourselves wondering how it would be possible to ever read so many books, let alone chronicle the details of each and be able to endlessly wax poetic on their virtues. It was almost unbelievable how meaningful these books were to this man. And yet at the same time, his enthusiasm was entirely believable because he couldn’t have been more genuine if he tried.

I oftentimes look back on that particular class as the most important hour and a half I ever spent in school. Not because I learned any specific lesson or because something scholastic finally clicked in my head; but because, for the first time in my life, I was actually excited about reading.

Not-so surprisingly, very little has changed for me in the past ten years with regards to my love for books. And because of this affection for literature, I have continued to read as much as possible, which in turn has lead to my periodically being asked by people near and dear whether or not I might be able to recommend a good book for them to read. I guess we’ll go ahead and consider this my response.

I should probably preface this list with the caveat that by no means am I the most well-read person on the planet; in fact, I’m not even close to being the most well-read person I know. Failing that, I can always go with the excuse that, in the words of Jay McInerney, “taste is simply a matter of... taste”.

In no particular order, here are the books you might want to read before you die, along with some of the reasons you might wish to.

The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer

This was far and away the best book I read in 2007. This is the memoir written by the Pulitzer Prize winning L.A. Times journalist J.R. Moehringer, about his growing up in a bar... literally. As a boy growing up in Manhasset, Long Island (the real life East Egg from Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby) J.R. had neither a real first name, nor a father. Feeling the need for that fatherly influence, as a young boy J.R. is compulsively drawn to the local watering hole where he learns everything there is to know about life and love. Imagine spending your entire childhood at The Oar House circa 1998, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what your narrator gets up to… And the story about J.R. losing his virginity is one of the best I've ever heard.

San Francisco Chronicle Review

Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney

I'm a sucker for Zeitgeist literature, particularly that which takes place in NYC, and there is perhaps no finer work capturing what it meant to live in the rollicking mid-80's Manhattan than this classic by Jay McInerney. I could recommend almost everything pre-21st century McInerney (his most recent work is downright unreadable), but this is a great jumping off point. It's the story of a young guy living in NYC, working at a big-time NY magazine (presumably the New Yorker) in the Department of Factual Verification. He has everything going for him, including the supermodel wife, and then in a matter of days, it all seems to unravel. Plenty of late night partying, plenty of substance abuse, and plenty of fun. Just a great read, and I love the fact that it's written in the second person (the story is about "you"; as in: "You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning", one of the most seductive opening lines I’ve ever encountered). They turned it into a movie starring Michael J. Fox, but as always, the book is infinitely better.

A McInerney piece taken from The Guardian in September of 2001, detailing the week that changed his city forever.

Brightness Falls, by Jay McInerney

To me, this is McInerney’s crowning achievement. The story of Russell and Corrine’s crumbling marriage amidst the stock market’s crash and Russell’s attempted hostile takeover of the publishing house he works for is beautifully written and describes New York City in the way that only McInerney can. His insight into the inner workings of the publishing world is enough to make you want to quit your current job and accept a position for a fraction of your current pay, if for nothing else than to refute the notion that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. It is the story of a guy who wants to be a big-shot, spending money he doesn’t have to impress people he shouldn’t need. It also has one of the best intentionally botched Robert Johnson lines in all of literature. If you liked Bright Lights, you’ll love Brightness Falls.

Review from Entertainment Weekly

The Tropic of Hockey, by Dave Bidini

Bidini plays guitar in the Rheostatics, and he just happens to be one hell of a writer as well. This is the true story of his traveling around the world with little more than his writer’s wit and his hockey bag, playing pick-up with random pseudo-hosers everywhere he can find a game, from China to Transylvania to Dubai. It is one of the most quintessentially Canadian stories I've ever read, and if you’re a hockey player, you can't help but relate to all of those universal truths of the guys, the dressing room, and the game itself. I’m of the belief that this book should be required reading in high school when you have to focus on Canadian literature, as there is no other book which more accurately describes what it means to be Canadian.

I defy anyone to read the prologue and not want to read this book.

The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

I won’t lie to you. This is a book that requires at least two readings and probably 3 advanced-level university classes of intense review in order to begin to appreciate it. The first time I read the first section, I had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on. As the title alludes, the first section is a tale told by an idiot (and a castrated one, at that; although, in today’s terms, we would probably refer to him as mentally challenged) in a stream of consciousness that flip-flops inexplicably between events taking place anywhere within a thirty year time frame… Again, almost impossible to decipher at first, but when you begin to understand what’s going on, this becomes one of the most fascinating and hysterical books about life in the south.

The scene where Jason is masochistically chasing Miss Quentin and the man with the red tie, practically reveling in his own misfortune (“I had gotten beggar lice and twigs and stuff all over me, inside my clothes and shoes and all, and then I happened to look around and I had my hand right on a bunch of poison oak. The only thing I couldn’t understand was why it was just poison oak and not a snake or something. So I didn’t even bother to move it. I just stood there until the dog went away”) is one of the funniest sections in all of American literature. You’d be hard pressed to find a more bitter character anywhere.

This is the ultimate dysfunctional family, and following their history through four distinct points of view and in a circulatory, non-linear chronology; although entirely bewildering at times; is one of the finest literary treats you'll ever come across.

The Sound and the Fury’s plot overview, along with links to the list of characters, and detailed descriptions of each section. If you plan on undertaking this masterpiece, you will probably need these notes.

The Body, by Stephen King

When I was fifteen years old, I was absolutely infatuated with the movie Stand By Me. My friends and I based an inordinate amount of what we did around what transpired in that movie, whether it be camping out down in the creek, yearning to play mailbox baseball, or just being off-limits inside a junkyard and fudging on our folks. Without exaggerating, I’d probably seen that movie 40 times by the time I reached the 10th grade, so when given the opportunity to choose our own book to read for one of those infamous ISU projects, I naturally chose the book on which that incredible movie was based.

Up until that point, I’d never really enjoyed reading. I mean, I read because I was supposed to, but I’d never really gotten into a book the way you do when you’re with it every page and can’t seem to be able to put it down. But The Body changed that forever. It was the first time I’d ever laughed out loud while reading a book. It was the first time I’d ever come across honest to goodness swearing in a book. And it was the first time I was ever able to relate to the characters in a book; the first time I saw some of myself in these people that existed on paper, in a story. And of course, it was the first time I ever realized that a book could actually be better than a movie… And we’re talking about a book being better than my all-time favourite movie, so this awakening was nothing short of historic.

More than anything else, The Body was the book that made me want to be a writer. I understood the world that this particular book had opened up for me, and I felt like being able to impart that experience on others was something I’d give anything to do; and what’s more, I felt like it was something I could do. For the first time, I realized that books didn’t have to be highbrow and excruciatingly boring in order to be considered good. And I finally understood that you could get more out of a book that you genuinely enjoyed reading than from some dull piece of “literature” that you were only reading because your teacher said that you had to.

In any event, The Body is a novella; a 120 page shortish novel found in the compilation entitled Different Seasons (which also includes Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and Apt Pupil, both of which were also adapted for the screen). I often have English teachers ask me if there is anything I would recommend for their students in order to get them interested in reading, and without fail, I say The Body every time. I’m not sure if any of them have ever actually gone ahead with the experiment (there might be some issues with the language and subject matter), but to me, this is the kind of coming of age novel that a kid needs to read.

Strangely enough, other than those short novellas, I’ve never really read any other works by Stephen King.

The complete script of Stand By Me, including bullet points you can click on for fantastic stills from the movie. One of the best things I’ve ever come across on the internet.

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

If you haven't already read Hemingway's story about the lost generation expatriate Americans carousing in Pamplona, then it's time you did. The main character, Jake, was wounded in the first world war, and as a result he is unable to, how shall we say... perform as a man? Despite this inadequacy, he finds himself in love with this girl who loves nothing more than to be with men who are able to perform, if you catch my drift. A man less sensitive than myself to the plight of the 1920’s woman might refer to her as a slut, but I would never sink so low as to impart such a smear.

This is the story of the group of them drinking and watching the bullfights and trying to forget about their problems and who they are for awhile. The writing is beautifully sparse in its style (an economic use of language that was unheard of at the time), and the dialogue amongst the characters is some of the best in all of literature. You will learn more about the Fiesta and bullfighting than you ever thought imaginable, and for my money, the book ends on the greatest kiss-off closing line of all-time. It also happens to be Hemingway’s crowning literary achievement.

The Sun Also Rises’ commentary in Time’s 100 All-Time novels.

The Human Stain, by Philip Roth

Philip Roth’s powers as a writer are almost scary. This was my first exposure to his writing, and to say that I was blown away would be a vast understatement. The Human Stain is the final act in the American Trilogy (also comprising American Pastoral and I Married a Communist), and it is the story of Coleman Silk, a former golden gloves boxer from Newark, now in his 70’s, who has been forced to resign from his position as a professor of classics at Athena college for making what some interpreted to be a racist remark aimed at two students who, to that point, he had never even met (when the two students fail to show up for the first number of classes, Silk asks rhetorically: “Do they exist, or are they spooks?”). When it turns out that the two absent students are African American, an ultra-PC revolt (“the ecstasy of sanctimony”) leads to his eventual resignation. What we learn later on is that Silk has been living a lie for most of his adult life, passing for a Jew when he is in actual fact a black man, making the charges of racism even more ludicrous than they already are (this book is a reflection of the times, as it takes place in 1998 in the midst of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, revealing just how absurd the entire proceedings actually were).

After Silk’s wife dies, he enters into a relationship with a 34-year old woman who makes him feel more alive than he can ever remember. The only problem with this relationship is that the woman’s ex-husband is a terrifyingly disturbed Vietnam Vet who has major issues with his ex-wife dating Silky-Silk.

I was so deeply involved in this story that I actually found myself shaking at the end of it, so afraid was I about what might befall the narrator. This is the only time this has ever happened to me, and for that reason alone, it has to be considered one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Charles Taylor may have put it best when he wrote: “As a novel, Philip Roth's The Human Stain, and the two books that preceded it in a loose trilogy, is perhaps the greatest achievement by our greatest living writer, a penetrating epic vision of American life and politics unequaled in American art since the first two "Godfather" films.”

Enough said.

Review from Salon: “At the top of his form, Philip Roth delivers an astounding novel about three issues that make Americans crazy: Race, sex, and Monica.

The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem

This book has almost everything you could ever want in a novel: innumerable references to 70’s soul music, growing up in Brooklyn as the only white kid in school, everything you need to know about graffiti, stickball, Spaldeens, and gentrification… It’s the story of two kids growing up together: one is black, and the other white. One has a former soul singer for a father and can’t help but be the coolest kid in the world, while the other has a reclusive avant-garde artist for a dad and is simply trying to survive.

If you love music and you love New York City, this is one of the best books you’ll ever come across.

View From a Headlock. An excerpt from The Fortress of Solitude, in the form of a short story, taken from The New Yorker.

You Shall Know Our Velocity, by Dave Eggers

Everybody always sites A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius as Eggers best book, but I always found YSKOV to be so much more affecting and memorable. It's the story of Will, a guy who has come across a bunch of money ($80,000) but feels a certain amount of Western guilt associated with it, so he and his buddy, Hand, decide to buy one of those one-way-around-the-world plane tickets so they can travel to various continents, dispersing the money to those who could find a better use for it, all within a span of 7 days. Sounds like fun to me, but the pair of them find that getting around the world and giving away money isn’t exactly as easy as it sounds, particularly given the fact that they are some of the least world-weary travelers imaginable. It also doesn’t help that they’re trying to deal with the fact that their childhood friend has recently died in a car accident, and the notion that Will can’t seem to deal with the memories that want to work their way back into his head…

Eggers has one of the most addictive writing styles I've ever come across, and this is one of those books that you won't find yourself able to put down. It kind of has the feel of a modern-day On The Road.

Maybe more importantly, there is a scene in the book where the guys try to tape some money to a cow, and they put the money inside a pouch with the words: “HERE I AM / ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE” inscribed on it with lightning bolts flanking the message… Believe me when I say that this makes for the world’s greatest message when written with nothing else on postcards sent back home…

YSKOV review from Flak Magazine.

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

I have read more books by John Steinbeck than I have by any other author, and this is far and away my favourite work of his. In fact, if I had to pick one book as my all-time favourite, East of Eden would probably be my choice. It is a story about the Salinas Valley; the sights, sounds, smells, and colours of that place that Steinbeck had for so long called his home; and it is a story about two families inhabiting that valley: the Hamiltons and the Trasks. It is an epic tale, spanning generations, and at the same time it is a tale as old as civilization itself. The truths depicted in this work are as relevant today as they were upon the book’s publishing more than fifty years ago, and they were as relevant then as they have been since the beginning of time.

With many of its themes based on Chapter 4 of Genesis (the story of Cain and Abel), much of the novel concerns itself with man’s universal struggle to do good in the face of evil. The stories of Charles and Adam, and of Cal and Aron are far too profound to delve into here, but theirs; as is every person’s; is about the ability to triumph over the sins we inherit and the sins we commit. As the some-times servant and all-time philosopher Lee puts it:

“The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’—that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’ – it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’”

I should probably point out that this is the only book I have ever stolen. I checked it out of my high school library when I was in OAC, and after I finished reading it, I knew there was no way I could ever give it back. I realize now that I should probably make a point of donating a brand new copy of East of Eden to the White Oaks Public Library. Really, for all that book has meant to me over the years, it’s the least I can do.

A laudatory summary of themes from

Star of the Sea, by Joseph O’Connor

I was introduced to Joseph O’Connor’s writing as a teenager when an uncle of mine lent me a copy of the wildly hilarious The Secret World of the Irish Male (the tales of the drunken Irish in the U.S. for the World Cup in 1994 – an event which I also attended – are nothing short of hysterical, and I’ve been searching for a copy of it ever since). So when the same uncle recommended Star of the Sea, there was no way I could have ever imagined the kind of book I ended up falling in love with, because it simply could not be more different from The Secret World….

Star of the Sea is the dark and at times terrifying story of the “coffin ship” of the same name, and its 27-day journey from Ireland to America in the winter of 1847 (in the midst of the Irish famine). The accounts of the inhumane conditions in steerage are almost impossible to fathom as the story weaves its way through the eyes of four different characters on board, the histories of each and what ultimately brought them to this particular crossroads being every last bit appalling as the quart of water and half pound of hardtack that the poverty stricken passengers are afforded each day.

This is a story that will give you an unforgettable idea of what life was like for the immigrant poor of the mid-19th century, and the historical significance of what O’Connor details is quite frankly the stuff they don’t teach you in history class. The depiction of life in a pre-famine Connemara is some of the most evocative writing I’ve ever come across, and the image of a brooding Pius Mulvey pacing the ship at night with the slow thud of his clubbed foot is the kind of haunting vision that gives kids nightmares.

Star of the Sea holds a special place in my heart because it was one of my Grandfather's favourite books, and because he too came to North America from Ireland; mind you in slightly more favourable conditions; but it can’t be denied that O’Connor is a ferociously talented writer, being able go from the light-hearted snapshots of modern Irish life in The Secret World… to the dark and haunting suspense of Star of the Sea. I guess that degree of talent shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, seeing as it seems to run in the family; Joseph O'Connor is brother to the supremely talented Sinead.

Review from Mostly Fiction.

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

Everything I know about architecture (which is to say: not very much), I know because I read The Fountainhead when I was eighteen. The story revolves around two young architects: Howard Roark (the character is based upon Frank Lloyd Wright) and Peter Keating. Roark refuses to compromise his ideals for the sake of pleasing his clients, even to the point of financial ruin; while Keating is all too willing to sell out in order to climb the social ladder.

The expression of ideals through architecture is a thing of beauty, and I love the line where Roark explains: “I don’t intend to build in order to have clients; I intend to have clients in order to build.” More than anything else, this is a book about being an individual. It’s a book about believing in yourself, and having the courage of your convictions in the face of all that try to beat you down.

Perhaps best exemplifying Roark’s indifference to the opinions of others is the line he gives in response to Ellsworth Toohey who, after essentially single-handedly annihilating Roark’s business and reputation, implores Roark to say exactly what he thinks of him. Roark responds: “I don’t think of you.”

There is also a vicious love story replete with more back-stabbing and underhandedness than one would care to admit exists in society, but there it is nonetheless.

A voraciously philosophical work, you really would be hard pressed to find a book more dedicated to the triumph of the human spirit.

Ayn Rand explains Objectivism in less than a page.

The History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, by Julian Barnes

If for no other reason, you should read Julian Barnes’ masterpiece simply for the untitled (Parenthesis) “half” chapter, which is easily the finest essay I’ve ever come across regarding the subject of love. I’ve been trying for years to find a way to adequately quote it for the purposes of wedding speeches and sappy card signings, but have pretty well conceded the fact that the chapter needs to be looked at as a whole in order to be fully appreciated and understood. It is as close to flawless as they come.

The rest of the book is nothing to turn your nose up at either: ten shortish stories loosely intertwined, and when read holistically, come together as… well, as a history of the world, so to speak. From a woodworm sneaking aboard Noah’s Ark to the most thrilling depiction of Heaven I’ve ever come across, the stories comprising this novel reveal how we look at history, and the consequent means by which we interpret life.

The story comparing a hostage taking to a (presumably) fictional psychology experiment involving monkeys and a heated floor; the aim of which is to prove that self-interest will always prevail over altruism; is one of the saddest accounts I’ve ever read.

Review from The New York Times.

Honourable Mention:

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby

Straight Man, by Richard Russo

Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh

V., by Thomas Pynchon

Mason and Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon

The Comedians, by Graham Greene

Layer Cake, by J.J. Connolly

The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, by W.P. Kinsella

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey

How Boys See Girls, by David Gilmour

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Stupid "Sports" Accident Showdown - Watch more free videos



I think this has to go down as a three-way tie. They all lose... And natural selection will surely take care of them all soon enough (including the two weasels on the trampoline laughing at their boy with the torn ACL).

Fainting Goats

Call me cruel, but I thought this was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. That carnage at the 0:50 mark looks like a goat re-enactment of that scene from Terminator 2 when the nuclear bomb goes off... And what about that guy with the multi-coloured umbrella? He's like the barnyard version of Iceman.

Definitely the best Youtube clip since this kid let his evil, cackling Aunt Janice pick the next ride...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Handicapping American Idol

I don't profess to know anything about American Idol. In fact, unless I'm locked in a hotel room in Cleveland and there's a guy singing about breaking into Paula Abdul's house and trying on her underwear, I'm probably not watching at all. But I have to hand it to El Presidente over at Barstool Sports. Now I feel as though I can have an intelligent conversation about the most popular reality TV show in the history of pop culture without having to actually tune in to the show (is there a more oxymoronical statement than: "now I can have an intelligent conversation about American Idol"? I really can't think of one). I might even enter one of those ridiculous American Idol pools with my girlfriend's friends and wind up taking all of their money. So thank you, El Prez. If I end up hitting the jackpot, I'll be sure to buy a T-shirt.

As a side note, is there anything better than talking about American Idol contestants in degenerate gambling terms? I love the fact that he refers to Alaina and Chikezie as "mid-majors". Too funny.

Handicapping American Idol
by El Presidente

OK, everybody the wait is over. It’s time for El Presidente’s American Idol preview. Now for those of you who are new to the Stool, let me give you a little history lesson. I have successfully picked the winner of American Idol before the first elimination show has even aired 5 out of the last 6 years. I’ve often said that God gave me three gifts in life. The first one is the ability to get a great parking spot under any circumstance. I’m telling you that I could get a spot right in front of Giacamo’s on Hanover Street at 8pm on a Friday night if I need to. The second gift is the ability to spot a bad fashion trend before I fall victim to it. I was the guy in middle school who never pegged my jeans. I just knew it looked stupid. And finally I can spot the American Idol winner a mile away...

To read more, CLICK HERE.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Turning 30

Back when I was a kid, I remember watching this great episode of Full House where Danny Tanner has a 30th birthday rapidly approaching. For this momentous occacion, Jesse and Joey decide to get him new seat covers for his beloved car, Bullet. Of course, things go terribly wrong when Uncle Jesse accidentally drives Bullet into the bay, the result of which eventually leads to the famous bidding war at the car dealership between Jesse and Joey and a mystery bidder on the other line (the mystery bidder ends up being Danny, of course). This is obviously a classic episode, but what has stayed with me most over the years from that particular episode was Danny's inability to say the word "Thirty".

At the time I remember thinking that this was just a quirky little gimmick that the writers had included for comedy's sake, this grown man being unable to admit that he had reached an inarguable stage of middle-agedness, the affects of which being so profound that he was actually incapable of saying the words. I also found it absurd that anyone would ever have a problem reaching a particular age, that age being little more than a number that nobody really cares about... And besides, I was nine years old at the time; I loved birthdays. I loved everything about them: the cake, the candles, the presents, the people... I even loved the idea of getting older. It was cool. Getting older meant that you could do more things and go more places and rent movies with gratuitous nudity. The whole thing about Danny Tanner freaking out over his birthday just seemed so far-fetched that it was almost impossible to believe. I mean, what the hell did he have to worry about anyway? The guy was, like, a grown up? He didn't need to worry about fooling anyone into believing that he was young and hip. The guy was old. Get over it.

Well, fast forward 21 years (wait... that was 21 years ago? But... That can't possibly be!), and I am Danny Tanner. I am 30 years old. And the prospect of life as a middle-aged man (again... that sentence can't possibly be accurate) is nothing short of terrifying.

I can't possibly be 30. I like to funnel beers up in Sauble on the May 2-4 weekend. I like playing Beirut and doing the Century Club until someone vomits violently. I still haven't even played Edward 40-hands yet! Can't anyone see that there are things I need to accomplish in life before moving on!

Here's the thing: if you had asked me when I was fifteen years old what my life would be like when I was thirty, I'd pretty much describe the way my life is right now, only the exact opposite. When I was fifteen, the life of a 30-year old involved a wife, some kids, a place in the suburbs, and maybe a dog or something. What it most certainly did not involve was the kind of raucous party on the eve of my 30th birthday that will probably result in my eviciton from the place that my girlfriend and I currently rent in the city. That would have been something that I would have never seen coming. But you know what? I couldn't be happier about it.

We had billed Sunday night as a "Dirty Thirty" party, but I was thinking of it more along the lines of an impromptu wake for my fading youth. We spent all day Saturday shopping for provisions (the difference between a guy throwing a party and a "couple" throwing a party: the guy buys beer and a couple bags of Doritos; the "couple" buys a variety of rare cheeses from Global Cheese in Kennsington Market, $200 worth of groceries in order to make a gigantic cauldron of clam chowder from scratch {it was phenomenal, for the record}, 8 quiches, various salads, veggies, spinach dip and bread bowls, 70 samosas from some famous samosa place in the most easterly reaches of Scarborough, desserts, soft drinks, a variety of wines... and beer and a couple bags of Doritos), and most of Sunday morning cleaning.

This was kind of a two-tiered party, with my family showing up Sunday afternoon for lunch, and then making way for the riff-raff later that night. It was great to have my family over because most of them hadn't been to our place, and there really is nothing we like better than entertaining. The tunes were going strong all afternoon (Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Son House...), and it didn't take long for the Steamwhistles to start flowing. My uncles presented me with a beautiful bottle of Scotch (The McCallan 15-year old Fine Oak), which we proceeded to put a major dent in. Needless to say, by the time my aunts and uncles left, we were feeling pretty good, the charge being led by my dad who decided that what the carpet needed was about a half-litre's worth of red wine to help bring the room together. He also managed to convince some of the others to stay the night with a well-timed offside proposition.

When people began arriving at about 8pm, that's when things started to get a little blurry. This is what I remember:

- Everyone arriving at once. At least that's what it felt like. Sammy was the first guest to walk through the door (surgically repaired knee and all), and about fifteen minutes later, there were 30 people in our living room.

- Browner and DVZ giving me ridiculously good gifts despite my pleas that I wouldn't be accepting anything... But it's tough to argue with 5 pieces of virgin vinyl (Feist, Broken Social Scene, Jason Collett, Stars, and Amy Millan) courtesy of Browner and the good people at Arts and Crafts, and a copy of Taboo II from DVZ (as has been explained previously, Taboo II is the single greatest pornographic movie ever made).

- An obscene amount of food for people to chow on.

- The Wayner making an appearance, as well as the countless other people I didn't necessarily expect to see. I have to say, as a guy who isn't "live" on facebook, there really is something to be said for its ability to bring people together. I'm pretty sure that at one point there were 50 people at our place.

- Blowing out 30 birthday candles and almost passing out in the process.

- Receiving more contributions to DJ Eric Foreman's collection (including a James Brown record courtesy of Sweet Nate and Jen, and a pile of classics from my mom and dad {The Everly Brothers, Ben E. King, Jan and Dean...}, as well as more bottles for the honour bar {12 year Dewars from Skeets, 18 year Highland from Foley}... Donnelly also made me the coolest shirt ever... Really, for blatantly explaining that there were to be no gifts accepted, I think I did alright. Completely unnecessary on everyone's part.

- Everybody from the 'burbs who made the trek into the city. You guys are the best.

- Having the guy-t0-girl ratio at about 5-to-1, and Donnelly refering to the entire affair as a "dick picnic".

- My dad deciding to take a nap in my office (on the floor, on top of an air mattress that had yet to be inflated) - the same office where every jacket was located - and in the process becoming a human tripwire for the next 45 minutes.

- My dad waking up for a few minutes to socialize, then deciding to take another nap, this time on the couch, and this time for a good hour and a half. In his defense, he had been going strong since 2:30 in the afternoon. And as one of the guests put it: "You think it's tough turning 30; just imagine what your dad feels like having a son turn 30!" I guess a little over-indulgence was to be expected.

- Having my neighbour across the street complain about the noise on multiple occasions.

- Having DVZ take over on the turntable, and in the process play some records that I didn't even realize I owned (Styx, Quiet Riot, Nazareth, Frankie Goes to Hollywood...)

- Being welcomed into the dirty thirty club by my 30-year old friends. It really did feel a little bit like a support group. At one point, some of them gathered around me and had me recite the words: "My name is Sean McCallum, and I am a thirty year old", making me feel like an alcoholic in more ways than one. Big thanks to all of the old guys who showed up to talk me through it, and to let me know that life doesn't necessarily end after your twenties. They say that misery loves company, but I think turning 30 needs it more.

- Having 70 samosas disappear in less than 3 minutes.

- Almost every person assuring me that "30 is the new 20!". Not sure if I'm buying it, but I appreciate the sentiment.

- Doing multiple shots of spiced rum and bad whiskey... ugh...

- The City All-Stars being in full effect.

- Not getting the chance to talk to some of the people I wanted to catch up with. I felt like a real dick when some people left and I hadn't gotten the chance to talk to them. Just a little too much going on that night. My apologies.

- Running out of beer and having to drink white wine.

- Trying to pick a wedding song for Rosco and Dev, and failing miserably.

- Joel McConvey making an appearance all the way from Korea... what a legend.

- B*Rad trying to get his jacket from out of the office at 2 o'clock in the morning and kicking over the glass of water my parents had set up beside their air mattress. My parents were laying in bed at the time, and B*Rad, in his attempt to fetch his jacket, proceeded to fall on them not once, but twice. An outsider would have assumed that it was one of those slanted rooms in a fun house the way B*Rad kept falling. One of the funniest things I've ever seen.

- Putting on Taboo II at 2:30 in the morning, and in the process weirding out all of the remaining girls, including those adults who were trying to sleep upstairs but could hear every last disturbing sound...

All in all, it was one of the best nights I've had in a long time. Of course, I'm probably a little biased, seeing as I knew every single person in attendance, but nonetheless. Thanks to everyone for showing up and for making it such a great time. A special thanks to my parents for making the trip, and to Ronnie for making it all happen.

One more note about reaching this alleged milestone in life. In the weeks leading up to my 30th birthday, I had a number of people ask me about how I felt about turning 30. My first response was to say that I was probably going to kill myself before my birthday so I wouldn't have to worry about it. But then, all kidding aside, I always found myself going back to that fifteen-year old's vision of what it meant to be thirty, and my response, almost without exception, was to say that I had no problem with turning 30 except that I just expected to have so much more accomplished by this point in my life. You know, things like: I'd love to have more writing published, I wouldn't mind owning a house, I should have probably thought more seriously about making my mom a grandmother by now... And really, I think that's the hardest thing about getting older: it makes you take stock of what you have (as well as where you've been, and where you're heading), which isn't necessarily the easiest or most enjoyable thing to have to do.

But you know what? After this past weekend, having been surrounded by so many great people with so much love and with so many good times, it's impossible not to appreciate exactly what it is you have in life, even if it isn't the kind of life you thought you were supposed to have back when you didn't know any better. Because 30 is the new 20, right? (right?!?!) And with that in mind, it's impossible not to look forward to this next decade, as we all should, with the knowledge that we can all continue to grow up, together, without necessarily having to grow old.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

After considerable deliberation by the editors here at, the committee of one has come to a decision as to what is the best possible song to post on this semi-sacred, entirely fabricated Hallmark Holiday.

It could have easily been any one of a number of Tom Waits classics, including Blue Valentines, or Better Off Without a Wife (it was brought to my attention earlier today, much to my dismay, that in a former life I had once sent a longwinded and shamefully bitter email to all of my single friends at the time, rambling on as I reminded them of how lucky we all were to be single on this day of days... In the words of Thomas Pynchon: "what a blow to the ego it can be to have to read over anything you wrote 20 years ago, even cancelled checks"... In any event, I capped the ridiculous diatribe off with the lyrics to Better Off Without a Wife. How fitting today that the song begins: "All my friends are married, every Tom and Dick and Harry..."). Chet Baker's My Funny Valentine is one of my all-time favourites, and Springsteen's Valentine's Day (like everything else from the Tunnel of Love album) somehow seems to get better and better with each passing year.

But in the end, I had to go with this Springsteen classic, as much for the video as for the song itself.

First off, you have what might possibly be the most honest love song ever written. It removes the day-dreamy facade of that impossible, idealisitic love that most songs go on endlessly about. The line that goes:

The road is dark, and it's a thin, thin line
But I want you to know I'll walk it for you anytime...

might just be most truthful stanza ever written on the subject of what it means to love someone.

Secondly, you have the context of this song and its video. It has been well documented that Springsteen created this album from the ashes of his napalmed marriage to Julianne Phillips. At the time they filmed this video (1988), the Boss was still technically married to J.P., but I think that it was pretty evident that he'd moved on to greener pastures. I mean, this is Patti Scialfa in her smoking ,rad 80's, supreme prime, and I think it's pretty safe to say that what's going on on stage here is what my good buddy Sully would refer to as a good old fashioned eye-f#ck.

And to me, that's really where the beauty of this song and it's video is. You have one disaster of a relationship coming to its merciful conclusion, with the remaining shattered pieces allowing for this other relationship; a relationship based in truth and reality; to take shape. It's like a metaphor for the springtime, where new life is born from the death and decay of that which came before it, the renewal giving reason to believe in better days ahead...

Am I looking too deeply into a song I happen to have a particular fondness for? Probably. Maybe it's just that I like seeing all of those couples from the 80's embracing in front of the camera, or the part at the 5:23 mark where the whole band jumps in unison... Whatever the reason, rest assured that wherever you are in your current cycle of life or love, there's someone out there just waiting to wish you a Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The King of Kong

Video games aren't really my thing. In fact, I haven't enjoyed playing video games since I finished Super Mario Bros. 1 in my buddy B*Rad's basement when I was 10 years old, electing to go out on top of the gaming world in the same way that John Elway was destined to do ten years later. But believe me when I say that you don't necessarily need to be a "gamer" to enjoy "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters".

First off, I vividly remember hanging out in the scuzzy arcades of places like Grand Bend, ON, and crowding around the "Street Fighter" game in awe of some dude with a pubescent mustache and an Iron Maiden T-shirt as he ran the tables on anyone brave enough to step up. It was like a right of passage in any summer destination town to get your ass handed to you by the local arcade champ... And if you ever wondered about what happened to that guy that beat you in Street Fighter, or in Pac Man, or in Centipede; chances are he can be found in this movie.

I don't know exactly what it is about this documentary, but ever since I sat back and watched it, I've found myself strangely obsessed with it. Maybe it's the good vs. evil dichotomy... Because make no mistake about it: Billy Mitchell is pure evil in this movie. After I finished watching it for the first time (yes, I have watched it multiple times), I found myself wondering aloud who was the better villain: Billy Mitchell or that guy with the CO2 canister in "No Country for Old Men".

Or maybe it was Billy's band of nerdy minions. I mean, Brian Kuh is the prototypical toadie, carrying out Billy's dirtywork like a devoted lover and fawning over Billy as if he were some sort of a demi-God; the veritable Grover Dill to Billy's Scut Farkus. And how could you not love the guy who uses the acronym DDG ("Drop Dead Gorgeous, in case you don't know") and has to wear a weight lifting glove so as not to receive joystick calluses. And what about STEVE SANDERS?!?! I mean, the guy looks just like STEVE SANDERS!!! It's uncanny. I wonder if he's had to go through his entire life like the Michael Bolton in Office Space...

But the supreme highlight, as far as characters go, is Roy "Mr. Awesome" Shildt. Not only is he the world record holder on Missile Command, and not only does he walk around wearing T-shirts that say "Mr. Awesome" on the back, but he posed in Playgirl in 1988, and he has a website titled: Honestly, you couldn't make this stuff up. Oh yeah, and he also released a comic book history of his life... and he inexplicably starred in this video... Yet another example of fact being infinitely more interesting than fiction.

But more than anything else, this movie is about Steve Wiebe, a totally sympathetic and likable figure trying to crack into the ultra cliquy and catty world of competitive gaming. You can't help but root for him, especially in light of the fact that his efforts are endlessly squashed by the seemingly cowardly and petty Billy, Steve being such a good guy that you even find yourself rooting for him in spite of the fact that Billy totally steals the movie with a 2 second clip that shows him blow drying his exquisitely coiffed mullet to a Leonard Cohen song playing in the foreground, a piece of cinematography rivalling even the greatest exploits of Vittorio Storaro.

One other note about The King of Kong: I have a buddy who looks identical to Billy Mitchell (Rat Tooth, I'm looking at you). It would be an absolute tragedy if he didn't grow a beard and get himself a pair of skin tight black jeans, a USA tie, and a black mullet wig for Halloween. If he commits, I'll gladly go as the Playgirl-posing "Mr. Awesome"... Just throwing it out there...

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Governator

I have no idea how this clip was allowed to surface, and can't help but believe that there is currently a hyper-alloy combat chasis surrounded by living tissue being sent back by Skynet to ensure that the web-geek responsible for posting this footage is terminated before it ever hits the net. So watch while you still can.

In a million years, did you ever think you'd see a Governer gawking at women and feeling them up on stage? And what about that English lesson? "Biting" and "Performing fellatio on small carrots"; yep, armed with that grasp of the language, this girl will be ready for anything that could conceivably come her way here in North America.

This video is clearly being posted for political and cultural reasons, but I should probably offer the disclaimer that if you're not into learning about the historical significance of scantilly clad women shaking their near-naked mullato bodies, you may wish to fast forward to the 2:05 mark for what is quite possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen: The Governer of California making the universal sign for "beer goggles". A 10 out of 10.

"You know something? After watching the mulattos shake it, I can absolutely understand why Brazil is totally devoted to my favourite body part: THE ASS!"

Spoken like a true dignitary.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Fan's Near Perfect Season

A great piece from The Stool's Jerry Thornton, paying a kind of twisted homage to the Simmons article which put the Sports Guy on the map and deftly explained what it meant to be a sports fan.

As for this sports fan, I personally blame the missed opportunity for perfection on Bill Belichick and his decision to wear that red hoodie for Sunday's game. A red hoodie? I mean, who wears a red hoodie when the ratty grey one has gotten you to 18-0? That's like talking to a pitcher in the dugout between innings when he's throwing a perfect game.

It was pretty obvious to everyone on the planet (including the 15 people I was plowing through that keg with at my buddy Sully's place in Oakville) that the Pats were playing well all year because Billy B was steadfastly trotting out every week to man the sidelines in that ridiculous looking shabby grey sweatshirt. And for him to switch it up when he was on Mercury Morris' block, getting ready to move his furniture in next door... The transgression was simply inexcusable. Because in the words of Crash Davis:

"A player on a streak has to respect the streak. You know why? Because they don't happen very often. If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid, or because you're not getting laid, or because you wear women's underwear, then you ARE! And you should know that!"

Everybody knows that you don't mess with a streak. But Bill Belichick's inability to respect that streak cost both The New England Patriots, and perhaps more importantly, Jerry Thornton, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for perfection. And it is for this reason; above spygate, leaving the field early, or his terse interaction with the media; that he should be ashamed.

I guess it's true what they say: nobody's perfect... well, except for Curt Henning, of course.

A Pats Fan Achieves (Near) Perfection
by Jerry Thornton

It was 10-something PM, Super Bowl Sunday. In spite of the fact that when it comes to the cold I’m the biggest weenie in the world, I was in a t-shirt, sitting by myself on my cousin Phil’s back deck listening to the Patriots last possession of the season coming from inside of the house. They were the only plays I missed all year. I sat there and all I could think was how I deserved better than to have it end this way. I’d given everything to the 2007 Patriots. They got more than my best effort. I’d given them The Perfect Season.

It’s hard to say exactly when talk began about the possibility of me having a perfect season. It might have been Week 8 when the Patriots faced the Redskins. It was a perfect, clear, crisp October Sunday afternoon in New England. The sun was shining, the leaves were falling; it was the kind of day they use as a setting for romantic chick flicks and penis medicine commercials. The Patriots were in the process of blowing out Washington 52-7 in one of the most lopsided wins in team history, which could’ve freed me up me up to do any one of about a hundred other things. My loving sons wanted to play football in the yard. My adorable Irish Rose needed help winterizing the pool. The untended leaves in the yard were beginning to decompose. But deep into the 4th quarter I made a decision: I would stick to my plan, stay in, watch the game to the final gun and finish that 12-pack I’d started.

As the final seconds ticked away, my spectacular MILF came into the den, looked at the score, and without a hint of malice in her honeyed voice said “Wow, 52-7 and you’re still watching this thing? Are you planning to do this all year?” That’s when I first started to think that maybe.. Just maybe... my Perfect Season was possible.

Of course it didn’t start there. You can’t just show up for the kickoff of Week 1 and expect to pull off a Perfect Season. It takes preparation. It takes hard work in the offseason. It takes time and commitment. It takes a completely misplaced set of priorities.

For me the 2007 season began as soon as the 2006 Patriots season ended. They were going into the NFL Draft with two first round picks, Nos. 24 and 28, so I went right to work. I searched mock drafts. Watched the scouting combine on NFL Network. Looked at YouTube clips of the potential first rounders. I formed concrete opinions on guys I’d never seen play. Even through March Madness and the start of the Red Sox season I always kept one eye on the Draft. When Draft Day arrived I was as prepared as I could be. I went to the house of my brother Jack, the most informed Draft nerd I’ve ever known. We had beer, cigars, Draft guides, laptops and a variety bucket from KFC. We were ready. Brandon Merriweather at 24? No surprise. A trade at 28? Saw it coming. Monday morning at work I was telling a guy a Draft story and he said “Wait. You didn’t actually watch it did you?” “Just the first six hours,” I replied.

That’s how you achieve perfection. You do the little things. As in Bill Belichick’s favorite metaphor, you start with the foundation and build the house brick by brick. Every time the Pats make a personnel move and you declare it to be the greatest acquisition in team history, you add another brick. “Wes Welker will catch 100 balls.” Brick. “Donte Stallworth will stretch defenses.” Brick. Sammy Morris is an upgrade from Dillon.” Brick. “Randy Moss and Brady will set records.” Brick. You harp on Ron Borges for talking out of both sides of his mouth on Adalius Thomas and he gets fired? Brick, brick, brick.

Training camp was long and grueling. But it’s a necessary evil if you want to make history. In the heat of July and August, I was checking football blogs... two a day... keeping up on Pats news. When all eyes were on the Major League trading deadline, I kept my focus, checking Mike Reiss to see who was winning the punting job. While the Yankees were in Fenway, I was combing through Pats message boards for breakdowns of the new zone blocking scheme. Because I knew I had the chance to be great. That’s why I worked so hard. That’s why I lifted all them weights.

Part of having the Perfect Season is backing your team perfectly, 100%, no slip ups, and I never wavered. The first challenge was when Rodney Harrison was caught using HGH. It was a tough situation, but I rose to the challenge. Rodney’s a warrior and a personal favorite so I ignored the shady nature of what he’d done and backed him to the hilt. When Spygate hit I remained the shameless homer. In the face of relentless pressure, I not only withstood the heat, I went on the attack and laid into anyone who dared criticize the Hooded One. Not only did the episode not make me lose faith, it steeled my resolve. I used it as motivation to be the best I could be each week.

As the season began and the wins piled up, I gained confidence. I felt like every week I was capable of going onto that couch, watching every play through rose-colored glasses and refusing to find even the slightest flaw in the team. I ignored the piss poor early season Red Zone defense. Refused to fault the pass coverage. Turned a blind eye to Laurence Maroney’s ineffectiveness. I stayed perfect.

As the season wore on, more and more the focus turned to my Perfect Season. I found myself constantly being asked if I could keep it up. Could I continue to watch every play? Could I avoid saying one negative thing about the Pats? Could I keep up my level of in-game beer consumption? I of course would have none of this talk, focusing only on the next game, the next play, the next controversy, the next trip to the package store.

Watching every play, even through the blowouts was the easy part. Others might tune out in the 4th quarter when the game was in the bag, but I refused. I stay tuned at all times, just in case I got to see Brady take flight or Belichick summon the Mother Ship to take him back to his home planet. Never doubting the team was a bigger challenge and there were scares along the way. Down 10 in the 4th quarter at Indy, I almost had a thought that the Pats could let the game slip away as they’d done the previous January, but I caught myself and recovered in time to preserve my streak alive. During the Baltimore Monday night game, when any of six different 4th down snaps could’ve spelled doom, I kept my poise, even while I was having stroke-like symptoms.

My biggest challenge was Week 16 vs. Miami. Every year my mother-in-law hosts a Christmas Mass at her house down the Cape. Not a party... a Mass. Imagine all the fun, happy, holly jolly aspects of the Yuletide season. Now subtract them from your holiday. What you’re left with is this joyless, desultory, soul-sucking night. And this years Mass started at exactly the same time as the Dolphins game. To my horror, just before game time I realized I’d forgot to record the game and my Perfect Season was in peril. But with ticks still left on the clock, I called my brother Jimbo, got him to go to my house, and like the control tower telling the stewardess how to land the plane, talked him through setting my DVR. It took until 3AM for me to see the game in its entirety, but my season was saved.

It got harder as the season wore on. Before Week 17 against the Giants, I was feeling the pressure as I drove to Uncle Buck’s house to watch it with him. I was so close to making history, what if I blew it at that point? What if Buck was a channel flipper and I missed something? What if the Pats fell behind? Would he and I feed off each other and say something negative? What if the long drive home (he lives just outside Buffalo, I think) intimidated me into sobriety? Of course the Pats did fall behind, but UB and I stayed calm, regrouped and focused on the next play and just doing... our... jobs. 16-0 on the season, .160 blood alcohol level. We should’ve made up t-shirts and hats for the occasion.

I breezed through the AFC playoffs, but that was easy. The pressure of the perfect regular season was over and I’d had perfect postseasons before. I was a heavy favorite to keep it going in both games and I didn’t disappoint. During the buildup to the Super Bowl, I testified perfectly my lifelong hatred of the Giants to the world, flawlessly touted the ways in which the Pats would eviscerate them, and faultlessly ripped the haters and politicians who tried to drop a turd in the Patriots punchbowl. I was on top of my game; I was pluperfect.

Only to have it all come crashing down around both of us like Mordor imploding when Frodo destroys the ring. And as the final seconds ticked off the clock and they turned the TV off inside, I sat there looking at the condensation of my breath while I hyperventilated and asked myself if I had it in me to ever do this again. And the answer was a flat “no.” Not a chance. Never. Now with a couple of days to think about it, I admit it was good ride right up until the last two minutes. And the Pats are holding the 7th pick in the Draft, so maybe.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The City All-Stars

In a shocking development in the TCSSC Intermediate Co-ed Basketball League, The City All-Stars pulled off a stunning upset to notch their first win of the year, improving their record to 1-3, and raising the bar for future teams to come by extending the fledgling team's unbeaten streak to 1. Throw in the 1-point loss from a week ago on a controversial last second bucket (a moral victory, if nothing else), and The City All-Stars appear to be peaking at just the right time.

Making tonight's win even more improbable was the fact that it came without the team's Captain, G.M., and inspirational leader Rosco (often referred to as the Red Auerbach of the Toronto Central Sport & Social Club, but lovingly embraced as the Hebrew Havlicek of the City All-Stars). We were also without the team's only player who has played basketball beyond the High School level, the inimitable Miss K.J. Robinson (yeah, that's right: our best player is a girl). Both super stars are currently in the running for Ewing Theory status.

In celebration of The City All-Stars' first win, here is a clip of the basketball team we most closely resemble:

(This preview is chock-full of expletives, so proceed with caution)

Midweek Reading Assignment

I'm not sure if you have more going on in your life than I do. Chances are, you do. But just in case you're feeling that void in your life now that football season has come to its inevitable conclusion, here are a few links to help you get through the rest of the week:

Proposed Transit Hubs May Shun Cars, by Tess Kalinowski

The chances of my ever moving back to the suburbs are somewhere between none and never, but the idyllic haven for commuters depicted in this piece, should the Province ever follow through with its plans, might someday push those chances into the "slim" category... Not that I have to concern myself with commuting, seeing as the world headquarters are currently located in my home office... but still... you never know.

(As a side note, I spent the better part of the year I took off between my 3rd and 4th years at University commuting from my parents' house in Oakville to Bay Street, and I can honestly say that there is really nothing more depressing in this world than sitting on the bus to and from the GO station, and then sitting on the train to and from the city, the vast majority of that time being spent in a hungover slumber until invariably being awoken as we pulled into Union Station by one of the countless good samaritans responsible for my keeping my job in that glorious year I spent "finding myself". The thought of going back to that kind of a commute is unequivocally unbearable, but I have to say that the prospect of showering with my fellow commuters after a vigorous bicycle trek is almost enough to make me reconsider... almost.)

Black on Track: Charting African American Music History

This collaborative piece in this week's NOW Magazine gives a great Coles Notes version of the history of African American influence in music; and considering how vast that influence is, it's actually quite a testament that the good people at NOW are able to condense it into this chronologically coherent thumbnail piece that can be taken in in less than 5 minutes.

This week's issue pays great tribute to Black History Month, so while you're on the site, feel free to peruse. I have to say that Honeydripper looks like a ridiculously good movie, and NOW features a pretty good interview with budding guitar legend Gary Clark Jr.

On another side note, budding hip hop legend Shad (one-time recipient of the NxNE Award for Best Pat Boone Reference in a Hip Hop Performance) was nominated for a Juno today in the Best Rap Performance category. And another favourite, Justin Rutledge, was nominated in the category of Roots & Traditional Album of the Year, Solo. (You can read about his performance at the NxNE Bob Harris Showcase here) Glad to hear that the Can-Con people are paying attention.

Dept. of Odds: Aces, by James McManus

I don't know about you, but I feel pretty good about the fact that the future President of the United States of America likes to have a few beers, smoke a few butts, and dominate his fellow senators in a game of poker. Just seems like the kind of normal, down to earth guy you want running the most powerful country in the world. And it probably doesn't hurt that he can speak like this.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Catch

Just when you thought that nothing could possibly top Tom Petty's halftime performance, Eli Manning and David Tyree go out and do this... I mean, just... WOW!

As it turns out, contrary to popular belief, Tom Brady can lose. The editors at the blog would like to offer an official retraction.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

French Seal Showdown

If you're at work or in the presence of small children, you may want to think about turning the volume down on these next three clips.



I love the cerebral approach taken by Bobby Knight. Nobody game-plans like the coach, and his ability to think on the fly makes him the obvious favourite going in.

As for the Aussie Rules Football coach, I think the guys at With Leather put it best when they stated: "It's surprising how few coaches know how directly proportional your team's performance is to the frequency of profanity in your pep talk. Not this guy."

Is there any way this team goes out and looses this game? After the goosebump-inducing reference to "The Olympics fuckin... somewhere in the 80's, with this chick that did this fuckin marathon..."? No f#cking way.

But I think I have to give the nod to Chris Berman on this one. In all of my years, I didn't think I'd ever live to see Boomer dropping an F-bomb, on the air or otherwise. He just doesn't seem capable of it. Maybe it's all that "Whooooop!", "Fummm-BULLLL!!!", and Eric "Sleeping With" Bienemy stuff, or the fact that he's a die-hard Bills fan and the only American Football commentator alive who regularly references the CFL... Call me naive, but I just never saw it coming.

To quote the great Clark W. Griswold: "Eddie... If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now."

You're with me, Boomer.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Tom Brady Can't Lose

How can you possibly bet against a guy who is this cool under pressure?

By the way, there was a great piece in Barstool Sports today about the people you watch the Super Bowl with. I'd have to say that I fit in somewhere between "Volume Guy" and "Disgruntled (insert team here) Fan". Because much as I try to have a good time during the big game festivities, eating and drinking as much as is humanly possible, I can't help but feel like I should be paying closer attention to what's taking place on the screen, having invested the previous 20 weekends of my life into watching as much football as I already have... And then there's that whole sickness I have where I can't help but to compare every conceivable championship game-situation to one of the countless scarring childhood memories I have of watching the Buffalo Bills blow four consecutive Super Bowls...

People You Watch the Super Bowl With: Volume 1
by Peter Manzo

Now a few months back I wrote an article entitled “Guys You Watch the NFL With” and hopefully most football-watching dudes could relate. There was “Conspiracy Guy” who for whatever reason always thinks the entire league is out to “get” his favorite team; there was “Horse Collar Guy” who thinks every fucking tackle is a horse collar, and there was “Go For It on 4th Down Guy” who wants the coach to go for it FAR too often on 4th down.

There were a couple others I don’t remember, but right now we’re aiming at a far greater audience than just guys who watch the NFL. This time we’re aiming for the entire population of humanity – women, children, trivia hosts, lesbians without cable, grandma, grandpa, pets, people convicted on judge shows, ALL of whom will be watching Super Bowl 42 between the Pats and the Giants, one week from Sunday on Fox.

Prop Bet Guy” – Prop Bet Guy is a fucking riot. Actually he’s completely insane. After every play he’s either celebrating another win or pissed off at another heartbreaking loss. It’s easy to spot Prop Bet Guy - he usually comes out firing. It’s like he’s at the NFL Combines when he pulls out a stopwatch for the National Anthem, and then shortly thereafter he’s yelling “Tails! Tails!” to try and even things out. Remember, a lot of these prop bets do not JUST involve the game in front of you. Sure there’s the standard individual player over/under type bets, but if Lawrence Tynes just nails a 52 yarder and some guy in a cold sweat asks “how many points did Kobe have today?”, just a hunch, he’s probably not a Lakers fan.

Volume Guy” – No matter where you watch this year’s game, they’ll always be a guy asking for “more volume” on the TV. There could be 1000 people in the room all screaming “Horse Collar!” at the top of their lungs, clearly making it impossible to hear the TV anyway, but for whatever reason Volume Guy is obsessed with hearing the game. It’s like heroin for this guy. He NEEDS volume. “Hey dude, can we get some volume on that thing?” Naturally the host or whoever will promptly ignore him and he’ll get into even more of a tizzy. “Volume dude, I need volume!” Now this year if he’s that obsessed with listening to Joe Buck, it’s time to call the authorities.

Senor Squares” – Listen, I used to be “Senor Squares” and I hated it. That’s right, for Bucs/Raiders and Pats/Sex Panthers I was the guy scrambling around the bar before kickoff with a pen, a stack of singles and an 8’ by 10’ grid of quasi-legal Super Bowl squares. It just got to be too much of a pain in ass though. People keep coming up to you every 10 seconds asking you who’s winning and what their numbers are because they’re too fucked up to remember. Which is fine. But be nice to Senor Squares, technically this is his volunteer work for the entire year. Good luck getting him to do anything nice for you til 2009.

Disgruntled Dolphins Fan” – I’ve never seen a more disgruntled NFL fan base than this current crop of Miami Dolphin fans. It’s like their whole world is crumbling down before their very eyes. First they had the Brady Quinn fiasco, then they went 1-15, now the Pats are about to swoop their most cherished and sacred record of an undefeated season. The steak at Shula’s just doesn’t taste the same anymore for some reason. Bottom line is if you hear somebody cheering after the G-men score, if he’s not wearing any Giant paraphernalia, chances are there’s a Disgruntled Dolphin fan in the house.

Degenerate Massholes Who Bet the Pats” – The only scarier individual come next Sunday night than Dolphin fans could very well be Degenerate Massholes Who Bet the Pats. Be careful. If you look up the word bittersweet in the dictionary you'll see a picture of them. Perfect season, my ass. This team hasn’t covered since the Pittsburgh game! Per usual, Vegas is smarter than me, you and everyone else not nicknamed The Greek. I have a feeling gamblers from Maine to Hartford will be letting it ride one last time with the Pats here minus 13. And while Bob Kraft, Belichick, Brady and Bruschi are celebrating their 7 point win at mid-field in Arizona, there’s going be some people in Greater Boston whose families might not be eating for the next several weeks.

People Who Cheer the Commercials” – I never understood People Who Cheer the Commercials. It’s a corporate advertisement, not a successful emergency landing. Other than the Miller Lite Cat Fight from a while back, I don’t think I’ve ever shown any emotion (I cried) after a Super Bowl ad. And what happened to the Bud Bowl? I freaking loved the Bud Bowl. Supposedly it jumped the shark when “Bud Dry” made the spot start at QB for Bud Light. Also note, the people who cheer the commercials are usually the same people who win the squares pool…

Post-Game Hookup Chick” – Unless you’re married or a complete degenerate, odds are you’ve got your eye on a potential post-game hookup since the National Anthem. Here’s a prop bet for you: how many plays will you miss this year but pretend to actually see because you were staring in her direction? 12-12.5? Now because the game usually falls on a Sunday things could get tricky, but I know for a fact one of my good buddies hooked up with a random after Pats-Eagles in ‘05. In fact he even guaranteed it ala Joe Namath before the game. He was a proud Pats fan, she was “just there for the Bud Light”, next thing you know he’s sending text messages with multiple exclamation points from her apartment at 1 in the morning. Final score: Jets 16, Colts 7.

So there you have it, People You Watch the Super Bowl With: Volume 1. Good luck on your prop bets, getting ass and of course, enjoy the game. See you next year for Pats vs. -Insert NFC Team- and we’ll roll the dice with Volume 2.