Hip Hip Hooray!

The Tragically Hip

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with The Tragically Hip for the past decade and a bit. Perhaps hate is too strong a word…more like violent dislike. I made a completely rational (ha!) decision to stop liking a band that I spent much of my college years and beyond listening to, all on the strength of two songs that I didn’t like (Poets and Butts Wiggling if you’re scoring at home).

I was an idiot.

I’ve spent the last few months since Gord Downie’s announcement wondering how I could be such a dumbass. I mean, Depeche Mode and Muse and even David Bowie all have songs I don’t like as much as others, but I’d never entertain the thought dropping them from my musical rotation.

See what I mean about being an idiot?

Tonight, like most of Canada, I will tuning in to the CBC to watch their final show. I’m thankful the national broadcaster is preempting the freaking Olympics to share this event with the country. We all need a chance to say goodbye to this amazing band.

When I heard Jack Layton had died, I referred to him as a love letter to Canada with heartbeat. The Tragically Hip ARE Canada’s heartbeat. With apologies to The Guess Who and Rush, I can’t think of a band who means more to Canada than The Hip, and I don’t know that any band will, could or even should fill that void.

Thank you for everything, gentlemen.

For what it’s worth, my top 7 Hip songs are Bobcaygeon, Grace Too, Locked In The Trunk Of A Car, Wheat Kings, Nautical Disaster, Ahead By A Century and Long Time Running.

Enjoy the show, Canada!

Goodnight, sweet Prince

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I wish I was dreaming when I wrote this. I wish it could have gone astray.

It seems like scarcely a day goes by in this miserable shitpile of a year without someone dying. We’ve lost David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, Patty Duke, Doris Roberts, George Kennedy, Garry Shandling, Abe Vigoda and myriad others, and this afternoon we find out Prince has died.

Prince. Seriously, 2016? So THIS is what it sounds like when doves cry.

Growing up in the 1980s, you couldn’t hide from the diminutive dynamo’s music…not that you’d really want to. His royal purpleness was ubiquitous in the early part of the decade. I mean he was everywhere. Radio, video stations that actually played videos, sold out stadiums and even the big screen. No matter what odd things he may have done (I’m looking at you, changing name to a symbol), there was no denying the talent behind the man.

Purple Rain is one of those iconic albums that holds up just as well today as it did when it was released over three decades ago. Thanks to YouTube, I’m listening to cuts from it here at the store as I watch it rain outside. It’s not quite purple, but it’s damned appropriate weather for the day. It also makes me think of what might be his most famous performance, at the Super Bowl in Miami in a virtual monsoon.

My friend Craig pointed out that most people overlook Prince when it comes to the best guitar players of all time. Maybe with his passing those folks will change their tune.

There’s a line in one of his songs, the open line, actually, that’s fitting for this moment:

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life.

Sage words, indeed. Rest well, good sir…and thank you.

 

Stanley Cup predictions with a twist

Hey gang!

If you know me, even a little bit, you know that the disdain I have for the sport of hockey is something you’d have never expected. I loved hockey, more than even baseball and football, but after the last labour goofiness, I said no more. I stopped watching and didn’t look in again until the playoffs.

That was a few years ago, and I’ve stuck to my guns. I’ve tuned in maybe twice on purpose to a game, and that was for just morbid curiousity more than anything. With the playoffs starting tonight, I thought I’d offer my predictions for what’s going to happen for the next few months…or the first round at least.

However, since I have no clue as to who’s good and who’s hot going into the postseason, I thought I’d use a different criteria: whether or not I like the baseball team in that market. Yeah, I know it’s weird, but consider the source!

Western Conference
Dallas vs Minnesota
In this matchup, I’d pick the Twins over the Rangers. Put Minnesota through.

St. Louis vs Chicago
Cardinals vs White Sox (I refuse to consider the Cubs because they’re the Cubs) for me is the biggest of no-brainers. Go Cards/Blues!

Anaheim vs Nashville
The Angels against, um, oh who cares. The Angels would win because of Mike Trout alone.

Los Angeles vs San Jose
In this little experiment, the Dodgers take on their old rivals the Giants. Even though this is an even numbered year and it’s folly to bet against the Giants, I’m going with LA.

Eastern Conference
Florida vs New York Islanders
Given the Isles and Mets have the same colour scheme, that’s the New York team I’m assigning to the Islanders. Taking Barry Bonds’ involvement with the Marlins into account, this one is a no-brainer for me. M-E-T-S! Mets! Mets! Mets!

Tampa Bay vs Detroit
If I were using my old hockey heart on this one, it’d be the Red Wings. In baseball terms, I’d still go Detroit over Tampa. Good to see I’m consistent!

Washington vs Philadelphia
The Nats against the Phillies? The very definition of laugher. Nats in a walk.

Pittsburgh vs New York Rangers
Gotta go with the Yankees over the Pirates, mainly because the stench of Sidney Crosby has infected all of Pittsburgh.

So there we go. Not scientific. Not really clever. Not sure if it’s even entertaining, but yeah. Enjoy if you’re watching!

The Hunt for Blue October

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Today is one of the days I look most forward to all year. No, not April 3 specifically, but Wrestlemania the premiere of Call The Midwife Opening Day for Major League Baseball. Despite what my lovely wife thinks, I get more amped for the start of baseball season than any other.

Last year, I whiffed on my guesses like someone taking a hack at an Aroldis Chapman fastball. I had the Dodgers winning the World Series over Seattle. Oops. I also had the Blue Jays in third, but that was before the spending spree that built arguably the best 1-9 lineup in the game. I don’t know if my friends who are Jays fans will be scared or comforted by this, but I’m not picking them to finish third again this year. Far from it.

Onward to my guesses predictions!

American League East
Toronto
Boston
Baltimore
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay

American League Central
Kansas City
Minnesota
Cleveland
Detroit
Chicago White Sox

American League West
Houston
Texas
Seattle
Anaheim
Oakland

National League East
Washington
New York Mets
Miami
Atlanta
Philadelphia

National League Central
Chicago Cubs *spits*
St. Louis
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Milwaukee

National League West
San Francisco
Arizona
Los Angeles
San Diego
Colorado

American League Playoffs
Wild Card
Minnesota over Texas

Division Series
Toronto over Minnesota
Houston over Kansas City

Championship Series
Toronto over Houston

National League Playoffs
Wild Card
Arizona over St. Louis

Division Series
Chicago over Arizona
San Francisco over Washington

Championship Series
San Francisco over Chicago

World Series
Toronto over San Francisco

Yes, you’re reading that right…I actually picked the Jays to win it all. Yes, I know there are question marks, like whether or not Marcus Stroman can handle being the undisputed ace of the staff. However, despite the old adage “pitching wins championships” you need to score runs, and the Jays do that better than anyone in the sport.

No even year magic for the Giants this year (after winning in ’10, ’12 and ’14).

So there we go. Enjoy the season, folks and remember: if the Jays don’t win it all, don’t blame me. Jayson Stark from ESPN picked them as well, and he’s forgotten more about baseball than I know. I also compared my picks against those of the 31 ESPN experts (after I made mine) and saw that while I’m close to a few, my picks are different from all of theirs. Go me!

Is it time for the opening pitch yet?

I’m doing it again…

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Hey gang!

I know this spot has been gathering dust for the past month and a bit, but there were reasons. The main one was, you guessed it, the shop. There was also March Madness…and no, I don’t want to talk about what happened to Michigan State *shakes fist at Middle Tennessee*

The other reason is the purpose of this blog. As you may recall, the past two Novembers I was a participant and winner of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. The goal was *coughs* simple: write a 50,000 word book in 30 days. The first time I did it, it was a blast. Last year’s was a dumpster fire and I think the best way to edit that one would be over a real dumpster fire.

In the spring, the people behind NaNo present Camp NaNoWriMo, a far less stress-filled event but one that’s still as awesomely creative and writing-filled like its November counterpart. In this iteration the word count is flexible, so there’s no pressure to write 1667 words a day. Phew! There are also Cabins this time around, which are essentially virtual writing groups. I found my way into a geeky cabin, where I’m the oldest person by at least a decade and a half. Thankfully, none of the kids in there have asked me to buy them booze…yet.

The idea for this particular story came to me in a dream…no, really. I had a dream that our new house was being used as a movie location for a film starring Jessica Chastain and Tommy Lee Jones. This is probably the only time Becky is cool with me dreaming about my favourite actress😉

The next night, I had the same dream again, but with another actor added to the mix: Casey Affleck. Now, I’m fleshing the idea out and writing it up as my contribution for Camp NaNo. We’ll see how it goes…hopefully I won’t need a fire extinguisher like I did in November with my last attempt.

And the Oscar goes to…

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Greetings cinephiles and people who like looking at celebrities in pretty dresses and rented diamonds! I’m back with my annual Academy Awards predictions *flails arms*

I’m looking to atone for last year’s minor debacle, as I was wrong guessing the Best Picture and Best Actor winners. Le sigh. *curses Eddie Redmayne for making me look bad years after I said ‘that kid is going to be a star’ after seeing him in My Week with Marilyn’*

As is the new normal, I haven’t seen many of the Best Picture contenders (just Mad Max and The Martian) but hey, it’s worth the guesswork, right? Onwards!

Best Picture: The Revenant (but I wouldn’t hate seeing Spotlight win…journalists represent!)
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (Biggest. Slam. Dunk. Ever.)
Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs (I think Alicia Vikander might win, I can’t vote against Katie!)
Best Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul
Best Original Screenplay:  Spotlight (but Straight Outta Compton winning wouldn’t break my heart)
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
Best Animated Feature: Inside Out
Best Cinematography: The Revenant (narrowly over Mad Max)
Best Costume Design: Cinderella
Best Documentary Feature: Amy
Best Documentary Short: Last Day of Freedom
Best Film Editing: Mad Max
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Mad Max (for being able to ugly up Charlize Theron so effectively)
Best Original Score: The Hateful Eight
Best Original Song: Til It Happens To You from The Hunting Ground
Best Production Design: The Martian (just so it can win SOMETHING tonight!)
Best Animated Short: World of Tomorrow
Best Live Action Short: Day One
Best Sound Editing: Mad Max
Best Sound Mixing: Mad Max
Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Like I wasn’t going to have Star Wars win at least one!)

So there we go. I admit to taking educated guesses on most of them, but that’s what makes doing this so fun. Enjoy the show!

Rest well, Miss Harper

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It was sometime in the late 1980s, 87 or 88 to be more precise, when I first heard the name Harper Lee. I was in my high school English class, and we had been assigned her classic novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, as part of our semester’s work.

We watched the movie adaptation of the novel in class, and the story completely enthralled me. I positively inhaled the book when it came time to read it. I couldn’t get enough of Atticus, Scout, Jem, Boo and everyone else in the tiny little town of Maycomb, Alabama.

The book immediately shot to the top of my all-time favourites list, which at the time was a MUCH smaller list than it is today. However, one thing hasn’t changed in almost three decades, and that’s my love of this book. Perhaps I should have said two things, because the other thing that hasn’t wavered is my admiration for the amazing woman who penned the novel.

Last February, I saw Miss Harper was trending on Twitter. I immediately thought she had passed, which wouldn’t have been a shock given her age (she was 88 at the time). Instead of news of her passing, fans were treated to news that another book was being released…news that nobody expected.

For me, the idea of a new Harper Lee novel was both amazing and terrifying. On the one hand, fans like myself would finally get a chance to read something new from her, something we NEVER imagined we’d get. On the other hand, the book would undoubtedly have nigh impossible expectations attached to it. As a result, I still haven’t read the new book…yet.

As I sat in the store this afternoon, I got a call from my amazing wife. “Honey,” Becky said, “I just heard something on the radio and I wanted to be the one to tell you because I know it’s going to upset you and I don’t want you finding out anywhere else.” I steeled myself as best as I could and asked her to tell me.

Miss Harper has died.

The news, like you’d imagine, hit like a ton of bricks. Like Bowie hard, like Weiland hard. I know that someone of her age passing shouldn’t be a surprise, but it was. I’ve spent a good chunk of the past three hours since Becky’s call thinking about her amazing book and, more importantly, this amazing woman. In previous entries on this blog, I’ve listed the dozen people I’d want at my version of the Last Supper. Not surprisingly, Miss Harper was one of the invitees. How could she not be?

The literary world lost an icon today, and I lost one of the people who inspired me to be a writer lo those many years ago. Rest well, Miss Harper…and thank you.