Just forget the words and sing along

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Funeral for a Friend

Here's an old thing I made while cleaning out my hard drive, so I thought I'd share it with the world.

A few years back, one of my dearest friends was nearing her 30th birthday.  She had read the statistic that, if a woman is unmarried by the age of 30, she may as well be dead, because that's how sharply her marriage prospects drop off.  With that in mind, for her 30th birthday party, she decided to throw herself a funeral.  She asked all her friends to submit eulogies, and her boyfriend was going to read them.  (And if you're worried about her marital status, her boyfriend put a ring on it a few months later.)

I was sad that I couldn't be there, because, at the time, she was in the magical, faraway land of Scotland, and I was a broke young man at his very first radio gig in the equally magical, but not as faraway, land of Athabasca.  As I sat down one afternoon to write it, it occurred to me:  I work in radio.  I have the set-up to record stuff.  Why don't I record myself saying it, and send her boyfriend the MP3?

And, as a firm believer in the power of production, I decided to raid my collection of film scores and put in some appropriate music.

I didn't get her reaction until a year later.  She was back in the country when my 30th birthday rolled around, and decided to pop in for the party.  According to her, my eulogy was definitely the highlight.  It was getting a little monotonous, as most of her friends just jotted down a sentence or two that boiled down to, "She's my friend and now she's dead and I'm sad."  Then her boyfriend stood up and said, "And we've got one last one here, that comes to us all the way from Canada," and he hit play, and the room was enraptured.  She even says that one of her friends instantly fell in love with me, and is waiting to greet me with a kiss should I ever find myself in Edinburgh.  (In my dreams, it's Karen Gillan.)

Anyway, I found it gathering dust on my hard drive, so I thought I'd dust it off and post it online.

For those curious, the music:
  • "Leaving Home" from Superman, composed by John Williams
  • "To the Stars" from Dragonheart, composed by Randy Edelman
  • "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jolity," from The Planets, composed by Gustav Holst
  • "Augustus Gloop" from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, composed by Danny Elfman
  • "Happy Birthday," written and performed by "Weird Al" Yankovic
  • "Remains of the Day" from Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, composed by Danny Elfman

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Pokemon the First Movie

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly rant about one of the movies I own.  It's time we touched upon one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures, the Pokemon animation franchise.  We kick things off with Pokemon: The First Movie.  This is in my notes at September 3, 2016.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Daredevil: Director's Cut

Here we go with Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly ramble about one of the many movies I own.  I'm taking a look at Daredevil again, because I just got the director's cut out of a discount bin.  This was originally in my notes at August 27, 2016.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Grown Up Stuff

A couple of weeks ago, I was out driving my car to work, when I rounded a corner, and it made a strange grinding noise.  It sounded a lot like when my car scrapes the bottom on an unplowed, and since we'd had a late April snowstorm, I wrote it off as the snow.  But as the days went by, and the snow melted, the grinding noise didn't go away with the snow.  I started to get worried.  So, I finally sucked it up and got my car into the shop.  According to the mechanic, my front brake pads had completely worn away, and the grinding noise was the brakes grinding into the rotors.  $600 to get the brakes done.  But, it was very important that I had to get it done by May 6.

I needed my car in tip-top shape to hit the city and see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Guaridans of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Poster

*sigh*  It's becoming more and more important to see these Marvel movies on opening weekend, because by Monday morning, the Internet is full of spoiler-filled articles dissecting every Easter egg and explaining the post-credit sequences.  In case you haven't heard yet, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has a record-setting five post-credit sequences, so be sure to stick around for all of them.

I quite enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  Just like the first film, what blew my mind the most was the music choices.  I mean, we're so conditioned to hearing the Jerry Goldsmith trumpets whenever a spaceship pulls into orbit around a planet.  But here, we hear My Sweet Lord and damn it, it works.

I also like that this one is a lot more character-based.  There's not as many big action sequences as it instead focuses on Peter Quill/Star-Lord as he meets his long lost father Ego, Gamora heading towards a reckoning of sorts with her sister Nebula, Drax opening up to Ego's consort Mantis, and Rocket and Yondu just being badasses.  And Baby Groot occasionally popping up to be adorable.

I also liked that Guardians of the Galaxy is still set in a remote corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, far removed from Earth.  That means it gets to be more of a direct sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy rather than having to worry about acknowledging Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and whatever else came out since that last one that I seem to be forgetting.

If I have to dig up one quibble, it would have to be your standard sequelitis.  Being the second film, it lacks the freshness that made the first one such an unexpected treat.

All in all, a great kickoff to the start of summer blockbuster season.  I give it 3.5 out of 4 nibs.  Full review over on the full website.

And then, heading home, I decided to break out of my culinary norm.  Some folks around the office were asking about a new fast casual place popping up in power centres across the land called Mucho Burrito, and if anyone had tried it yet.  Since I knew of a power centre that contained one on my drive home, I decided to try Mucho Burrito for supper.

My initial impression of Mucho Burrito is that it's very much like Taco del Mar, just a touch more upscale.  (i.e., fancier decor, more topping options, they serve booze.)  But it's pretty much the same.  You place your order the clerk, they make it all right in front of you, asking what toppings you'd like as you go along.  As has become my way in these new franchises that I try, I asked the clerk what I should try for my first time.  She recommended I go with their standard beef burrito.

Honestly, I found it a bit bland, but I blame myself.  This being my first time, I decided to take it easy on the options.  But next time, I'll probably go for the medium salsa instead of the mild, and maybe not drown it in every sauce because I want to try everything.  I do like shrimp, and I see one of their meat options is Cajun shrimp.  So I'll probably keep heading back to try a few more options before making a final judgement.

And that was my trip into the city last week.  As I headed home, I went back to fretting about my car, and what more needed to be done.  While my car was up on the hoist, the mechanic did say my tires are on their last legs, and that it's time to get some new ones.  I've been worried about the tires and pricing out a new set for about a year now, so it's finally time to pull the trigger.  I think I've found a set I like that works within my budget, and if the Fates are with me, I'll be getting them next week.  And as for the budget, it turns out paying for things is easy if you don't mind going back in debt.  Finally paid off my car in 2015, and I've had this lovely two year streak of being debt-free.  Oh, well.  Desperate times and all that.

For the most part, I think I'm doing a good job of this being a grown-up.  And it means I can go see my silly superhero movies whenever I want.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Roxanne

Time to go Fishing in the Discount Bin again, as I watch and reflect upon one of the many movies I own.  This time up, it's Steve Martin's classic 1980s romantic comedy Roxanne.  This is in my notes at August 22, 2016.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

It's Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly rambling about one of the many movies I own.  Time to bust out one of the most talked-about movies of this time last year (but not in a good way), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  This is in my notes at August 14, 2016.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Scarecrow Goes to Popeyes Chicken

I was in the city last week for some meetings at head office.  While there, I turned to some of my co-workers, and talk soon turned to Popeyes Chicken.  Popeyes Chicken -- officially known as Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen -- is an American fried chicken chain.  They've made the news recently as they were just bought up by Restaurant Brands International -- the consortium that now owns Burger King and Tim Hortons.  But before that, back in the fall, they announced that they were finally beginning an aggressive expansion into Western Canada.  One of my co-workers from Toronto says they've had them in the Golden Horseshoe region forever, but they've never ventured further west than Ontario.  That all changed when, with much hype and ballyhoo, they opened their first Western Canadian location in Edmonton in November.

And being obsessed with fast food, I knew I had to try it.

Now, they're first location in Edmonton was down on the south side...kind of where the east leg of the Whitemud Freeway meets the Anthony Henday.  It was a long drive from head office, but doable.  But after chatting with some of my Edmonton colleagues, they revealed that the second location had just opened up...just north of the Yellowhead on 97 Street.  That was a lot closer.  So, when the meetings were done, we were off to Popeyes Chicken!

We made it to the restaurant OK, thanks to every phone having GPS navigation these days.  We arrived, and people were lined up out the door.  I hadn't seen that since my very first trip to Wendy's when I was a kid.  Maybe it was the first Wendy's in Red Deer, and that's why it was so crowded.  Huh... I never thought of that.  Anyway.  Half of our group went and grabbed a table, the other half stood in the line to place the orders.  I was in the order group, which gave me lots of time to ponder the menu.

Like most chicken fast food places, they've got your usual assortment of chicken dinners, chicken fingers (they call theirs tenders), chicken nuggets, and chicken burgers.  They've also got some seafood options, but chicken is what they're known for, so that's what I was getting.  What got me was the variety of side dishes.  Let's be honest, fast food, generally your side dish options are fries, poutine (because Canada), and maybe onion rings.  But in addition to those, Popeyes also has mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and so many others.

Popeyes has two kinds of combos:  the combo and the platter.  Essentially, the combo has one side dish and the platter has two.  Since it was my first time, I decided to go with the platter to sample more sides.  I went with the three tender platter, with corn on the cob and red beans and rice for my sides.

Oh, and I should mention you get the chicken in spicy and mild.  I went with spicy, with buttermilk ranch for my dipping sauce.

Alright.  Once my meal came, I tied into it.  My thoughts:

The chicken - It had just the right amount of spice.  I find, sometimes, the fast food places can overdo it.  But there's just enough to give it a kick without overwhelming the taste buds.  The batter had a nice crunch to it.  And I found it to be less greasy than the rest of the fried chicken choices out there.

Red beans and rice - I actually found it kind of bland, but given the spicy chicken, it was a nice way to cool things down.

Corn on the cob - Wow, this was really juicy.  Like, dribbling down your chin juicy.  But yeah.  Nothing really special about it.  Just good ol' corn on the cob.

Biscuit - Every combo and platter at Popeyes comes with one of their signature buttermilk biscuits.  Nice and fluffy.  I don't know if the warmth came from being oven-fresh or under a heat lamp, but it didn't have they drying-out that comes with the heat lamp.  So it was good.

All in all, I was quite pleased with my Popeyes Chicken experience.  I found the chicken quite good, and was tickled with the variety of side dishes.  I'll probably be heading back...once more locations open and it's not such a journey to get to one.

And now, the scene from Little Nicky we were all quoting on the drive down.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Scarecrow Goes to IKEA

When last we left our intrepid hero, he came home from work on Thursday afternoon, ready to enjoy the Easter weekend, when he met tragedy in his living room.  The tempered glass top shelf of his entertainment centre had shattered, leaving broken glass all over his floor and one upside down TV.  Here's the pics, in our "pics or it didn't happen" world.  Once I got the glass cleaned up and verified that the TV was still functional, the question turned to needing a new entertainment centre.  So as one does in this day and age, I hopped on line and went to the IKEA website.  I found one I liked that was within my budget, asked my parents to meet me there (because things like "size" confuse me so I wanted to borrow my Dad's truck in case it was needed), and plans were made for a road trip!

Rolling into Edmonton, I was pondering the last time I went to IKEA.  It had to be when I was a kid...way back when IKEA was still in West Edmonton Mall.  Yes, Edmonton's IKEA was originally in West Edmonton Mall, way back when the Mall first opened in the mid-1980s.  The Mall has always prided itself on bringing in many retailers to Alberta for the first time, and I'm pretty sure the West Edmonton Mall IKEA was the first one in Alberta, if not Western Canada.  In the late-1990s, as the South Edmonton Common became a thing, they moved down there.  For those who don't know their West Edmonton Mall geography, IKEA was originally where the Sport Check and Bed, Bath, and Beyond currently are.

But no, they moved to South Edmonton Common, reviled by many in Edmonton for being the very definition of urban sprawl.  The massive, sprawling power centre, taking up a good portion of Edmonton's south side.  At least it's really easy to get to, now that the Anthony Henday Drive is complete.  Take the Henday all the way around to Gateway Boulevard, head north into the city, and BOOM!  It's your first exit.  I entered the Common and was instantly lost, as rather than the massive parking lot that most power centre have, it has built up its own maze of streets and avenues.  Luckily, IKEA is massive, so I just set my sights on the massive blue and yellow building on the horizon and drove towards it.

I arrived about a half-hour before my parents, and decided to browse the showroom while I waited.  As it was Saturday, it was understandably crowded.  The showroom was as I remembered from my youth, a winding maze taking you through many model rooms, showing you what the furniture looks like all assembled.  I spent a lot of time in the living room section.  I'm also in dire need of a new sofa, but even IKEA sofas are pretty pricey on a small market radioman's salary.  Hell, the only reason why I could afford the new TV stand was, in one of those strange karmic things that runs the universe, my tax refund arrived on the same day as the shattering.

I wandered over to the living room storage section, where I found the TV stand I had my eye on.  Looked like it would have fit in my trunk with no problem, so looks like I didn't need to invite my parents along.  Speaking of, that's when I got the text message from my mother that they had arrived.  Now came the most stressful part of my trip to IKEA...going against the flow of the people going through their showroom so I could get back out to the entrance.  Once I got back out to the front, took a moment to calm down, and met with my parents, it was back into the showroom, because they wanted to check out some stuff.

Seriously, though, I don't know if it was the legendarily high stress environment of IKEA on a Saturday, or me, because I was feeling pretty stressed out in IKEA.  Sometimes I think I should see a doctor about anxiety issues because I've never done well in big crowds, but it's getting worse as I get older.

Saw more great stuff in the showroom.  There was a nice glass display cabinet that would be prefect for my action figure collections, should I ever get a bigger place or more money.  They had bookshelves on sale, and I've considered getting a third one as my current DVD shelves are full and spilling out into little piles all over my floor.  Mom took down the number for that one in case I changed my mind by the time we got down to the warehouse.  And some mattresses as well, as my original IKEA mattress is starting to get pretty worn out.

Even thought I haven't been to IKEA in 30 years or so, a lot of my furniture is IKEA.  My armchair, my dining room set, my bed, my dresser, and my computer desk.  I have my parents to thank for that.  The standard housewarming gift that my parents settled on when me and my siblings all got our first places was $1000 worth of flatpacked furniture.  So within a week of being at my first apartment at my first radio gig, my parents and my brother showed up with all these IKEA boxes and we spent the day setting it all up.  I still use pretty much all of it because, well, I'm cheap and it works, so why not?  But the mattress on my bed is starting to wear out.  and IKEA's got some comfy ones.

We finished up in the showroom, the codes for my TV stand in hand, and it was time for lunch.  So we dined in the famous IKEA restaurant.  It really was a cafeteria, though, as you grabbed your tray and got in line.  I grabbed a glass to hit up the soda fountain, but while looking through the cooler full of bottled juices, I saw a juice box of an IKEA exclusive called "Elder Flower Juice."  Intrigued, and no doubt thinking of the classic insult from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I decided to grab it.  For lunch, I dined upon the IKEA specialty of Swedish meatballs with gravy and mashed potatoes.  It suffered from the standard cafeteria problem:  it had been sitting in the steam trays a little too long and had dried out.  But still, pretty good.  The Elder Flower Juice had a sweet, slightly tart flavour.  It tasted vaguely familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

With out bellies full, we went downstairs.  Here, IKEA turned into a more conventional store, as the shelves were lined with all kinds of housewares and other knick-nacks for your home.  As Mom remarked afterwards, she wound up spending more money there than I did, as she got some new lamps for the guest rooms, some new towels, and various other sundry items for the home.  It a situation where I'm definitely going to have to go back someday, and check out all the other neat stuff.  Especially the lamps.  Lots of neat lamps.

Now that Mom's shopping cart was full, it was into the warehouse to pick up my entertainment centre.  With their cutesy mock-Swedish names, my TV stand was the Besta.  But it turns out, the Besta is a modular system, with dozens of different variants.  Took us a while to go up and down the aisles, getting all the parts for the particular Besta I had seen in the showroom.  But we found them.  With those precariously placed atop our shopping cart, my mother said, "So...is there anything else we're getting?" as she pulled her notepad from her purse, with the numbers for the bookshelf I was eyeing.  I frightened my mother by responding with a Rick and Morty quote:  "Nobody exists on purpose.  Nobody belongs anywhere.  Everyone's going to die.  Let's get the bookshelves."

We got everything into the back of Dad's truck, and made our way out of the city and back to Westlock.  Mom and Dad volunteered to stick around for a bit and help with the assembly.  Dad and I got the Besta put together OK.  I did get a little worried when Mom told me to take a break and she and Dad got to work on the bookshelves.  There was a viral story not too long ago about a certain IKEA cabinet that a marriage councilor had dubbed "the divorce-maker" because of all the arguments it started as couples put it together. Luckily, my parents got through it unscathed.

As my parents left, my mother did have a few surprises.  Some of the new towels she bought were for me, and she also found a bottle of Elder Flower Juice concentrate so I could brew some at home.  As I was getting ready to mix up a pitcher, I had an inspiration.  I fired up my SodaStream, ran the Elder Flower Juice concentrate through it, and made my own Elder Flower Soda.

Guess what?

With bubbles, it tasted just like ginger ale.  That was the vaguely familiar flavour.  It was flat ginger ale.

This whole adventure happened to me about a week ago.  I've been enjoying my TV on my nice new Besta stand, and drinking up the last of the Elder Flower Juice.  Needless to say, IKEA was quite the journey.  And like many other stores, I think I'll be going back someday when I have more money.