How I Liked Season 1

10 days ago, I began a televistic journey; rewind to 2005 and experience the trials and triumphs of Marshall, Lily, Barney, Robin and Ted, on TV’s How I Met Your Mother. The first leg of that journey ended today, having completed season 1.

The expedited nature of viewing on Netflix allows me to summarize rather succinctly, having been in their universe for less than 2 weeks.  I’ve had my share of groans, though usually when you watch something alone you don’t audibly do it.  My main comment is that HIMYM is resembles Friends extremely closely, minus 1 main character.  That is not to say Friends is bad; I watched the entire series during it’s televistic run (may have needed syndication to catch up on those early years, but it was NBC Thursday night appointment TV post-1997).

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Friends / HIMYM checklist:

  • awesome New York apartment with exterior access
  • nearby hangout with amazingly dependable seating
  • character introduced to established group in Ep. 1 as a love interest (Rachel/Robin)
  • hopeless romantic male lead (Ross/Ted)
  • sex-crazed male lead (Barney/Joey)
  • stable yet goofy male lead (Marshall/Chandler)
  • stable female lead with unfulfilled career aspirations (Lily/Monica)

These similarities made it difficult to fully accept the entertainment offered, instead of being needlessly objective.  That being said, if a formula works, you copy it to the fullest.

I am extremely interested to see how this show unravels, which it obviously must, based on viewer’s comments.  More so, I am eager to share in the quintessential moments that made HIMYM a classic TV series that was enjoyed and adored by millions.  By the end of the first season, I can see a twinkle it in the player’s eyes – it’s the acting disappearing, and the characters taking over.

One other comment; my favourite peripheral character this season was Sandy Rivers, Robin’s co-anchor at Metro 1. His idiotic sleaze charm is supreme.
(You’re terrific) “Thanks. I never tire of hearing that.”

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Since original viewers had to wait until the next season began, I am also going to enact a moratorium between views.  I’ll digest and return to Season 2 with fresh and familiar vigor!

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How I Feel About Opinion

2 years following it’s series finale, and 11 years after it’s premiere on CBS, I have begun watching the sitcom How I Met Your Mother.  It comes highly recommended by many friends and coworkers.  After watching the first few episodes, I took to Twitter to announce the news. 

The first response started out positive, but in less than 140 characters, the tone shifted to disappointment:

Don’t go too far? Followed by directions to stop before the end of the run.  I was pleased that Chris had replied promptly, but to request backup for his statement was a surprise. Chris and Brian produce a fun, insightful and critical podcast called That Thing You Like, where they consume and review popular culture. Iris was the other half to my own podcast Talkfoolery, which we recently pulled the plug on.  I trust their opinions.

Iris responded by saying I should stop after season “5, and whatever you do, DO NOT WATCH THE FINALE. Worst!”

Brian concurred, and added, “but if you absolutely have to keep going, 7. But after that you. MUST. STOP.”

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Candace

Conflicting views.  What am I getting into?  I voice my displeasure with some of the characters’ choices so far, finding ways to scrutinize.  I also know that I am getting to some cultural touchstones soon.  But a seed of doubt has been planted, and I am going to be aware of it once I venture into the latter-half of the series.

Damn you Twitter! Why did I seek your input?  And then I mentioned all “stop after” business over Sunday breakfast, and emphatically heard, “Nahhh, 3!”

Next time.

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How I Missed Your Mother

One of the great downfalls of our all-access media-centric society is that one can never consume all the great entertainment output.  I cannot imagine the life of a critic, or a reviewer on AVclub.com.  It’s so time consuming, and not great for the eyes either.

Fortunately, my vision is already impaired considerably, so it’s no predicament to justify watching a completed series that it seems most people my age have a strong affinity for.  No, not an obscure cable network show that aired 20 episodes (Party Down, which you should watch and love).

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I’m talking a full on investment, something that original run viewers spent 9 network TV seasons watching; the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

Too many times I have answered “No” to “Have you seen HIMYM?”  Too many opinions that I should definitely watch it, have I heard.  Too many references missed.  Until now.  Thanks to the magic of our all-access media-centric society, I can now view each episode at my leisure.  Which I have begun.

A week ago, I watched (cringing, for the record) The Pilot.  The first episode takes place in 2005, before the advent of effective streaming platforms, and right in the movement of sitcoms away from studio audience laughter.  The canned laughter in The Pilot made it excruciating to watch.  Additionally, the dialogue seemed forced.  The actors were trying to be their characters, but it just seemed fake.  Had I watched that episode in 2005, I would not have watched next week.

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In 2005, I was nearing the end of a university degree. I didn’t have time for network television. I was in early 20s mode, in the early 21st century!  As time passed, I made specific TV choices (at my neighbour’s, because she had a cable package with DVR). I had heard about How I Met Your Mother, but I just never had the urge to tune in. I figured that it would come and go, like so many cheesy US network series.

I doubt that any of the cast, crew or network execs would have thought that How I Met Your Mother would last 9 seasons. That’s crazy! Seinfeld lasted for 9 seasons! Seinfeld! One of the greatest TV shows of all time! 9!

However, hind sight affords patience. I watched #2, Purple Giraffe, where Ted throws 3 parties in order to hang out with Robin, who we already have heard his older narration explain as Aunt Robin, so there goes that mystery.

Candace, who I work with and is a fan of HIMYM, insists that I am trying hard not to like the show. She told me so, responding to my text: “I don’t see how some of these stories should be part of a father’s tale of how he met your mother.”

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I see her point.  However, I am beginning to enjoy, as evidenced by my ability to smile and ignore the audience laughter from time to time. It’s an improvement.  Then I took to Twitter to announce that I had begun viewing. Not the response I anticipated.

More on that next time.

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4 Years Following the Start of the Arab-world Uprising

Four years ago, I traveled to the small, North African country Tunisia.  At the time, my step-sister and her husband lived in the capital city, Tunis.  Also at the time, and unbeknownst to us, revolution was bubbling in the southern Tunisian cities.

By January 15, 2011, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country, after dissolving the government the previous day.  My pleasure trip had suddenly been turned upside down, as I was now inside a country that the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry deemed unsafe to travel to.  As I explain in the following post, my family and I are now living in a situation unheard of in Canada, where the eruption of protest is going to cause us to flee as well.

15 January 2011 – 2:36am

•Within the Tunisian Revolution, I Remain

Never in my life has media played such an important role in the general outcome of my actions, as it has in the last 30 hours.

On Thursday evening, Tunisian President Ben Ali addressed the nation in an effort to calm the protests and stop the bloodshed.  In office since 1987 (he rewrote the constitution to allow him to remain in power), he promised that he would not seek re-election when his term ended in 2014, as well lower the cost of basic food staples, and remove restrictions on media.  This was the act of a desperate man clinging to power, and attempting to cool a pot that had long since boiled over.  Although relief spread throughout Tunisia last night, it was not a sense of complete accomplishment.  Rather, it was more of a feeling of astonishment; that the actions of the people had caused a direct change in their autocratic government.  While this was certainly cause for celebration (as evidenced by the cheers and car horns honking in the distance), it was also cause for an outsider’s concern: the people were not satisfied with just his reign ending in 3 years. They wanted a change in the government, and they wanted it now.

There was talk of a General Strike as ex-pat friends of Anika and Nolan’s were texting, phoning and posting their plans of evacuation long before Ben Ali appeared on TV.  While their houseguest Kris scrambled to book a flight out on Friday, we reserved to delay our decision until morning, and get a sense of what was going to transpire. This path was going to eventually lead us to a dead end.

Morning dawned on the 14th of January, 2011, and the majority of shops were closed.  The few businesses which remained open were a handful of cafés (Tunisians are crazy for coffee), and small convenience stores.  As we toured around, it was clear that Ben Ali’s TV address had not sufficed.  People were milling about, no doubt tense from the increased presence of the army.  Kris had been successful in booking a flight and continuing his vacation in Milan, Italy.  After lunch, we dropped him off at the airport and returned home.

By mid-afternoon, news and images about increased protests in the city center flooded the TV screens.  Soon after, it was announced the president had dissolved the government and parliament, and called for elections within 6 months.  Enough was enough, it was time for us to get out.  Nolan and Anika continued their search for possible destinations for the 3 of us and their dog, Charlie.  With no government, and the country being run by the one man that the people didn’t trust, uncertainty prevailed.  We no longer believed we could live safely here.

All the while, more news was flying in.  Anika and I sat in the living room, BBC World News on TV, and computers in hand.
As reports regarding riots and looting streamed in, Nolan secured us an Air France flight to Marseilles on Saturday afternoon.
Just after 4pm, a state of emergency was announced.  This elevated the Canadian Foreign Affairs travel advisory to Tunisia (don’t go unless you absolutely must, or as I termed it: Threat level Maple Syrup).
I was reading that the president had left the country, and that the military seized control of the airport, effectively closing any air travel to, and more importantly, from, the capital.  Air France canceled the flight (completely removed it from their system, in fact) and there was no one in charge.  We were stuck.

The protesters succeeded in bringing about change.  They effected the removal of what many perceived as a dictator, and were apparently rejoicing in the streets.  I was witness to a major political and societal change, and wanted to join in their celebration, except for the fact that there was no leader.  These demonstrations were not planned by a political party, had no affiliation (aside from anti-Ben Ali), and could not we quelled with one person’s wish.
We were at the mercy of whoever was going to make the upcoming announcement on state TV.  Up on the roof, jubilation mixed armed altercation was heard.  I could see the black smoke from a fire in the distance; later flames.  The sun was sinking in the sky as the tension was raising on the streets.  What was going to happen tonight in Tunisia?

Shortly before 6pm, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi appeared on TV to announce that he would be assuming temporary control of the nation until the elections could be held, declaring Ben Ali unable to exercise his duties.  The PM as well promised to “respect the law and to carry out the political, economic and social reforms that have been announced”.
Upon hearing this, a strange feeling overcame me; I am in a nation undergoing a revolution.

The unrest continues into the night, with the curfew still in effect, and gunfire and retaliation echoing nearby.
There is absolutely no way to know what kind of Tunisia I am going to wake up in tomorrow, whether or not the airport will be reopened, and when we can leave if it is.  We are not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot.  A lot has to happen to assure that this country will remain functional.  However, the news is a step in a positive action, and the people of Tunisia have set an enormous example to the people of the world, most notably the oppressed, Arab-speaking nations nearby.

Tonight, I remain in a country with an undetermined future, with no way out.  This wave of change can still tide towards the extreme.  Yet, I am happy to be here, sharing in this monumental experience.  Once again, this trip has brought the unexpected.  With plenty more to come.

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•Dissolving the CFL’s Divisions

Divisions have been meaningless since the Crossover rule

As the country prepares for the 102nd contest for the Grey Cup on Sunday, the disparity between the Canadian Football League’s two divisions is as evident as ever.  The Calgary Stampeders, the cream of the Western crop and the league’s best regular season team with 13 wins – 5 losses, take on the Hamilton Tiger-cats, representatives of the East with a identical record of 9 wins – 9 losses.

The top three teams in each division advance to the postseason.  However, since 1997, a 4th place team in one division can take the playoff spot of the 3rd place team in the other division, provided that the 4th place team has more wins.  This is the CFL’s Crossover rule, and the reason why the B.C. Lions (9-9) qualified for the playoffs ahead of the Toronto Argonauts (8-10).

The purpose of a regular season is for clubs to jockey position for the playoffs — in a league where nine teams battle for six spots, the division champions are awarded a bye in the first round, automatically advancing to their respective Division Final. However, under the current Crossover format, it is possible for a 4th place team from the opposing division to gain entry into the Grey Cup, albeit representing the wrong division — this has yet to occur, but the plausibility of reading ‘B.C. Lions – East Division Champions’ is a ridiculous prospect (the 2009 Lions defeated Hamilton in the East semi-final, before losing the final to Montreal).

The modern-day CFL alignment is merely a fossilized relic from when the league was formed from rugby unions of last century. In 1958, the CFL coalesced from the eastern Interprovincial Rugby Football Union, and the Western Interprovincial Football Union (precursors to the current divisions). The tradition of East vs. West for the Grey Cup stems from this history. Until 1961, the two unions (later, Conferences) did not meet until the big game, and following some limited interlocking play for twenty years, a full merger in the regular season schedule occurred in 1981.

The Canadian Football League has shown it’s ability to adapt — the advent of the current Crossover rule is apparent. The time has come for the league to shed it’s outdated divisional playoff format and adopt a simple ranking table, while still qualifying six teams. In lieu of division champion bye-weeks, the top two clubs after the regular season are awarded the rest and host the two semi-final contests. The remaining four teams face off in the quarter-finals — 3rd vs. 6th, and 4th vs. 5th (home-field advantage belonging to 3rd and 4th). The winners are re-seeded, with the lowest ranked team playing the top semi-finalist.

2013-2014 CFL standings (top 6)

2013-2014 CFL standings (top 6)

This updated format allows the possibility of a Grey Cup game between rivals like Toronto vs. Hamilton, or Calgary vs. Edmonton, while maintaining the variety (and competition) of the current system, and rewards clubs after an 18-game/20-week regular season.  Traditionalists may cry foul, but the CFL has never shied away from improving it’s product, which is currently enjoying massively increased popularity across Canada.

(with files from CFL.ca & Wikipedia)

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•The problem with soccer

Soccer is a near-perfect game with a fundamental flaw, and its costing it’s reputation.

I am excited that North America is steadily embracing soccer. The success and expansion of Major League Soccer (19 franchises and growing to 21 next year) proves that there is an appetite for the game. This year’s World Cup has been a viewership Cinderella in Canada and the US, setting record audiences for TV and radio — though, it helps grow the numbers when you provide quality programming.  Additionally, soccer is the sport most widely played in Canada, not hockey, so interest should be garnered through grassroots.  Clearly, the beautiful game is trending up on this continent.

The sport itself is nearly perfect — all you require is a ball, or something sphere-ish, and enough players to form two teams.  Granted, the sport is not everyone’s cup of tea — in fact, many would probably consider tea and soccer as an apples to apples comparison — but you’ll never get 100% acceptance of any sport.

The fundamental flaw is how the sport handles a tie, when a winner must be determined (like in a tournament).  In the 1998 and 2002 World Cup, FIFA had the right recipe.  Extra Time was “Sudden Death,” meaning that the first goal scored in the bonus period would end the game — a Golden Goal.  This is a dramatic and climactic conclusion to game, giving an urgency to the play. If need be, experiment with subtracting 1 player from each side every 15 minutes, to a maximum of 3.  If this sounds asinine, remember that at the conclusion of Extra Time, they currently remove all players and just kick the ball at the goal.  What seems crazier?

If the game is still tied after a 45 minute Extra Time, let the players rest, and resume next-goal-wins play after the break.  Soccer is a team sport.  It’s criminal that a tie game, on the world stage, can be decided with Penalty Kicks.  What was the whole point of playing the team portion of the match, if we’re just going to have it be goalkeeper vs a shooter?

It completely diminishes the element of a team, and heaps all the pressure on two individuals in the moment.  Not to mention that much of the time, the keeper looks completely foolish because the shooter kicks from so close a distance.  It’s a guessing game!  It’s absolutely ludicrous that a game poised so highly on athleticism, strategy and teamwork is resolved in this fashion.

When you eliminate the notion in a players mind that when the clock runs out, he might get to take an uncontested kick 12 yards from the goalie, it removes distraction.  The players on the pitch should be solely focused on getting the next goal, and not worried about whether their keeper is going to get hung out to dry.

Take out the shootout in international competition, and return to a Golden Goal finish, and you’ve just perfected the rules of soccer.

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•Back on the case

Quebec @ 11th Ave, Vancouver

Quebec @ 11th Ave, Vancouver

My recent obsession with a Vancouver graffiti tag “JOHN CUSACK” has called me to realize that my interest in the subject is not new.  This is the 3rd signature that I have associated creative actions toward.

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Ontario @ 8th Ave, Vancouver

 

 

2 years ago, a chance conversation with a friend led to photographing “MR. 8,” a pseudo-individual who painted a Canada Post mail box (I still don’t know what the tall grey ones are called).

Pendrell St, looking toward Jervis St.

Pendrell St, looking toward Jervis St.

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Across the alley behind the Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver

Not long after, I snapped another, lurking in an alley behind the Rickshaw Theatre, while volunteering on a short film.  By Mr. 8’s second, documenting graffiti in Vancouver was becoming a hobby.

 

 

Case in point: an investigation into a West End Vancouver tag, “POPE IS DOPE.”  I became familiar with the artwork of P.I.D. at the corner of Nelson and Nicola Streets.  I passed by it often, and it also stood out as peculiar (as you can see).

Nelson St @ Nicola St

Tag #1: Nelson @ Nicola

Tag #2: Jervis @ Davie

Tag #2: Jervis @ Davie

However, one day, I noticed another signing on a green Metro newspaper box, with just the text.  On a map, I noted the 2 tags formed a perimeter around the local Catholic church.  I published my early findings on April 19, 2011, with intent on updating my search. I began taking daily concentric walks, working my way around the neighbourhood, inspecting the backs of street signs, buildings, even dumpsters. I wish I was making this up; I actually combed my neighbourhood like this.  I should note that I was unemployed. With the intent on publishing a follow-up report, I discovered 2 more POPE IS DOPE tags; the 3rd was a mere half-block from the holy building itself; the 4th, was again on Nelson, 3 blocks from where my obsession began.

Tag #3: Broughton @ Davie

Tag #3: Broughton @ Davie

Tag #4: Nelson @ Bute

Tag #4: Nelson @ Bute

And then the trail ran cold.  Are there more POPE IS DOPE tags out there, or did the artist have a guilty conscience about vandalizing the Holy See on visual information distribution boxes?  When I was in Catholic elementary school, I tagged my gang’s name on a baseball equipment utility bin (the kind that sit behind the backstop at a ball diamond).  I had such remorse for my action that not only did I return later and erase it (I wrote it in pencil; I was in grade school), but I repented it as a sin to my priest during my first confession!  This is still a true story. (Looking back, I don’t think anyone would have deciphered that I was a co-founder of that 2-boy gang; I am neither “Black” nor a “Ninja.”  Story still true.) So, if P.I.D. got religion and stopped his evil ways, I can fully relate.  But if he didn’t, if he managed to just elude my unemployed eyes, it means he is out there.  And if he’s a she, or a he-she (it is the West End, afterall…), she is out there.  What does the tagger think of new Pope?  Is Francis as dope as Benedict?  Less dope?  More dope? Perhaps Dopey moved away, like I did.  Perhaps another neighbourhood somewhere is learning about Pope’s dopeness…  Perhaps in that neighbourhood lives a tag-tracker with the intelligence, determination, and free time to document some random’s graffiti.  I hope to meet him.  That’d be dope. – Twitter: @Bowsering | My weekly humour podcast: Talkfoolery

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