Best of Toronto Mike


Soundtrack Gems

musicA well placed piece of music in a film can alter the meaning of that song for all eternity. Try and listen to Bill Conti's "Gonna Fly Now" without envisioning Rocky Balboa's run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Some will think of Gord Martineau, but most will think of Rocky. Here are my favourite film songs from a life time of movie watching.

The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind" from Fight Club - Shortly after that memorable scene when the building collapses, Fight Club bursts into "Where Is My Mind?" and the combination is perfectly haunting.

The Crystals' "Then he Kissed Me" from Goodfellas - One of my favourite scences in cinema is that one when Henry enters the restaurant from the kitchen and the entire scene is done in one take. This is the song that plays during this fantastic scene.

The Geto Boyz' "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster" from Office Space - This song juxtaposed with the white collar life of a cubicle warrior made my day when I first saw it. It's become the feel-good anthem of Dilberts everywhere.

-M-'s "Belleville Rendez-Vous" from Les Triplettes de Belleville - This is a great animated flick with an opening sequence set to this tune. It's catchy, jazzy fun that you'll be singing for weeks.

Gord Downie's "Hallelujah" from Saint Ralph - I've probably said enough about this one already.

Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" from Trainspotting - I could have gone with Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" or Underworld's "Born Slippy", but "Lust For Life" almost seemed to have been written for this flick. Hearing it always reminds me of what a great movie Trainspotting is.

Pearl Jam's "State Of Love And Trust" from Singles - This is another movie with several notable songs on the soundtrack, but this was a song from one of my favourite bands that seemed way too good not to appear on a studio album. How much better would Vs. have been with this sucker on it?

Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" from Almost Famous - I had never heard this song until I saw Almost Famous, an almost perfect little movie. Now, whenever I hear "Tiny Dancer", I'm back on that bus singing right along.

Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" from Do The Right Thing - This song and movie made a statement, and it's difficult to imagine one without the other. Always do the right thing.

Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" from Wayne's World - Aurora, Illinois was a thinly veiled Toronto, right? The sing-a-long in Wayne's shitty hatchback to this classic is classic in its own right. Let me go!

Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" from Grosse Pointe Blank - This cool flick also had a number of great tunes on the soundtrack, but none suited it better than "Blister in the Sun".

Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" from Apocalypse Now - I don't really need to explain this one, do I?

Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter" from Closer - I liked the movie, but when it was over I kept hearing this song in my head. It's chilling and perfect for one of the closing scenes of "Closer".

Michael Andrews' "Mad World" from Donnie Darko - Sometimes a cover of a song is more enjoyable than the original. That's the case for me and this Tears For Fears song. Donnie Darko was a dark gem of a movie and "Mad World" sums it all up perfectly.

The Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A." from Teen Wolf - Okay, this is a guilty pleasure from my youth. We had Teen Wolf on tape and practically wore it out playing that last basketball game over and over again. "Surfin' U.S.A." plays while Scott as a werewolf surfs on the van and I always thought that was a pretty cool stunt to pull.

Stealers Wheels' "Stuck In The Middle" from Reservoir Dogs - This is a seriously sadistic scene that seems all the more sadistic when contrasted with this silly little Dylan-esque ditty. Try imagining this song without this scene and vice versa.

Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" from Kill Bill Vol. 1 - Sure, this list is a little heavy on the Tarantino, but for my money there is no better director. Kill Bill Vol. 1 opens with this song and Kill Bill Vol. 2 wraps up shorty after The Bride's baby guns her down. Bang bang.

Eddie Vedder's "Man Of The Hour" from Big Fish - I promised myself I wouldn't cry. This song about that man... damn, I can't do this.

Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" from Pump Up The Volume - For a fifteen year old kid, Pump Up The Volume seemed pretty cool. The guy ran a pirate radio station and said cool stuff like "All the great themes have been used up and turned into theme parks" and "eat your cereal with a fork and do your homework in the dark". After seeing this movie at the Humber Odeon, I felt like a changed man and Cohen's "Everybody Knows" was my theme song. Of course, all the great themes have been used up and turned into theme parks.

The Soggy Bottom Boys' "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" from O Brother, Where Are Thou? - I don't think this movie would have been as effective without a tune you'd believe was a hit. I believe in "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" and it made a great movie greater.

Dusty Springfield's "Son Of A Preacher Man" from Pulp Fiction - We'll finish things off with a song used brilliantly in my favourite movie of all time. It's one of my ten tracks and I first heard it in this flick. I'm going to spin it right now.

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Humble Howard, Are You Okay?

radioAll day long I've been getting hits from people Googling Humble Howard leaves mix and other similar searches. I rank rather highly for these searches, thanks to this entry about Fred Patterson getting the boot last September. I listened to Humble & Fred every morning for years when they were on CFNY Edge 102 but I lost touch with the geeks that groove when they signed on with Mix 99.9.

All of these Google searches got me wondering if Humble Howard had jumped or was pushed from his morning slot at the station that loves Dixie Chicks and Coldplay. There is nothing on the subject at Google News Canada but a quick visit to the Mix 99.9 program schedule reveals that Steve Anthony is penciled in the 5:00 am spot. Is this simply a vacation for Humble Howard Glassman or is there a little fire amidst this smoke?

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The New SLS Guide

SLSPop quiz, hot shot. What is SLS? If you don't know, you're new to these parts, and that's perfectly alright. This entry is going to bring you up to speed lickety-split.

Consider this an updated sequel to the original SLS101 guide. We'll call this SLS 2.0.

What does SLS stand for?
SLS stands for Smells Like Sour. The phrase was coined before I got involved with SLS, but I hear it has something to do with a road trip, a Nirvana song and an aroma.

What exactly is SLS?
SLS is a "hypothetical" collection of new tunes that we "release" twice a calendar year. Henceforth, all editions of SLS will consist of 20 songs the SLS committee deems to be the best new music since the previous installment of SLS. We "release" new editions of SLS around Canada Day and Christmas Day.

How did you get involved in SLS?
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked with this guy. It turned out we had similar taste in music, so he lent me a copy of the second installment of SLS. It was simply another mix of new rock tunes for the car and not intended to be much more than that. We began collaborating on the playlists of the next couple of installments, which were "released" periodically, at non-specific intervals. It occurred to me that we should normalize the "release" dates so that they were every six months. Independently we'd come up with our choices for the next edition, we'd meet up and we'd negotiate until we arrived at a consensus.

Does SLS have a home on the web?
Absolutely. There's the Smells Like Sour home page which I've been maintaining since September 16, 2003. From this page you can access the songs that have appeared on the previous installments and suggest a song for the next edition. It's also become a popular destination for those who wish to discuss the latest releases and such. Although we only went public with the SLS site a few years ago, we had been using the web as a way to track tunes we each thought was SLS worthy for a couple of years prior, only it was our little secret.

What makes a song SLS-worthy? This is a tough question to answer. If a song is going to qualify as part of the best 80 minutes of music from the previous six months, it's gotta be good. We know an SLS-worthy tune when we hear it, but it's difficult to quantify. There's a spirit to an SLS tune that makes you want to turn it up and get lost in it's aura. System of a Down's "Chop Suey" was SLS-worthy. Simple Plan's "Perfect" was not.

Who decides the final playlist for SLS? Anyone can submit a song for SLS consideration via the Smells Like Sour home page, but the final decision is made by Mark and I. Since I maintain the page and have my ear closer to the ground, I usually come up with a 20 song mix of music and give Mark an opportunity to veto a track or suggest another. We typically come to an agreement pretty quickly.

What edition are you on? We are currently accepting submissions for SLS16 which will be "released" in late December. SLS15 just came out last week. SLS17 will be out in June 2007, SLS18 in December 2007, and so on, and so on, and so on...

Isn't this illegal? There is nothing illegal about compiling hypothetical mixes. Any resemblance to a compilation we share with friends and family is completely coincidental.

What tunes are looking good for SLS16? The best way to catch hints about what the next edition of SLS might look like is to monitor this site. When I submit a tune for SLS consideration, I'll mention it here. I also periodically write about potential track lists and tunes that look good for inclusion. All my SLS-related entries are conveniently located on one page.

That about does it. You now know what SLS is, what it stands for, how it came to be and where you can go to learn more. SLS 2.0: all the tunage and twice the love.

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A Homemade Hallelujah!

musicEven before I saw "Saint Ralph" I was hunting for an MP3 of Gord Downie's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".

Last month I linked to a site that was sharing several covers of this Cohen classic. I left a comment on that site telling everyone about my search for Downie's version and asking for help. It's not on an album, it's not available for sale online and not even The Tragically Hip faithful seem to have a bootleg copy.

There seemed to be only one way to get this version of the song in MP3 and that's to create an MP3 from the audio output of "Saint Ralph". Sophie, a Hip fan from Germany, saw my comment on the site sharing the Downie covers and offerred to help. She rented the DVD, created an MP3 and emailed it to me early this morning. Hallelujah!

This will tide me over nicely until Downie releases something official. I know a lot of people have been trying to locate this song as I've heard your empathetic pleas since I first wrote about the cover last August. If that's you, leave a comment and I'll email you the MP3 Sophie shared with me this morning.

Pay it forward. Thanks Sophie!

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I Am Not A Number, I Am A Ballplayer

baseballI love playing ball. I always have. From the moment I played my first game of tee ball at Lessard Park I was hooked. What I lacked in natural God-given talent I made up for in heart and soul. Baseball has always been my favourite participation sport and I've given 100% in every inning I've played.

I've been playing with Raging Storm for about five years now and we've had quite a bit of success and plenty of good times along the way. We've played in a few different leagues in the GTA, currently climbing the ranks of the RSPA. A few years ago, we started keeping stats.

As a fan of Major League Baseball, I'm obsessed with stats. Ask me who was the first Jay to hit .300, smack 30 homers and drive in 100 RBIs in a season and I have the answers. I can tell you who recorded the first 20 win season, who hit our first all-star game hit and who pitched our first no-hitter, hit for the cycle or won the AL MVP award. Major League Baseball and statistics are a marriage made in heaven. When it comes to your summertime slo-pitch team, I've always been a great deal less sure.

I opened this matter up to debate at the beginning of the year, and the general consensus was that keeping stats was a good thing. Agreeing to satisfy the general will, I've been happily recording our batting statistics on our official page and I'll continue to do so. Following our fifth game of the season, however, I had an epiphany.

We are not professional ball players. In fact, we pay to play in this league. When you pay to play there is only one objective. We're playing to have fun. That's not to say we're not playing to win, we're definitely playing to win as winning enhances the fun, but we're certainly not playing for our stats, or are we? I had myself down as 2-4 in the game but when the official stats came in I was listed as 1-4. The mistake was mine, when I reached base the second time it was recorded as a fielder's choice. Suddenly, the difference between a fielder's choice and a single in a game of slo-pitch on a Monday night meant something more than it ever should. It meant a significant drop in the batting average.

I played Monday in a great deal of pain, playing first for all seven innings because it hurt to move and even calling for a courtesy runner for the first time in my career when I reached base in the last inning. I'm glad I played, because it was a lot of fun, and that's exactly why I play. I play for love of the game. I play to be part of a team, ideally a winning team, and I play because I've loved playing since that first game of tee-ball. I don't play to ensure my batting average stays above .500 and I've removed my stats from our page to ensure I never lose sight of this fact. If other members of Raging Storm wish to follow my lead, I'll gladly remove their stats as well.

It's time to start a revolution. I am not a number. I am a ballplayer.

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Hurry Up And Wait

medicalAfter a restless night of the most severe back pain I've ever experienced, I decided at 5:00 this morning to visit St. Joseph's Health Centre. At the very least I figured they could rule out anything serious and prescribe some heavy duty pain killers. Even in the very early morning, a visit to the hospital is a series of waits.

Wait #1: Triage Nurse - Upon arrival, you've got to check in. I was third in line which made this wait bearable. If you show up with something clearly life threatening, you get to move to the front of this line!

Wait #2: Registration - After checking in with the triage nurse, you get to sit down for a while and wait to be called by the registration desk. This was only a half hour wait, but keep in mind it was really early on a Monday morning. On the bright side, they had a TV in this room and they were airing live action from the French Open.

Wait #3: Ambulatory - Here you leave your chart and sit down for an hour or two. Luckily, there's a TV in this area airing CBC Newsworld. 60% of the broadcast was about the terrorist bust this weekend and 35% was about the Stanley Cup final kicking off tonight. The other 5% was the weather forecast. This wait is to see a nurse, not an actual doctor.

Wait #4: The Doctor - After being reviewed by a nurse in a little room I was actually sent to a different little room to wait for a doctor. I'm now in my fifth waiting location and about three hours into my hospital stay.

Wait #5: Blood Work - After finally seeing a doctor I was asked to wait for another nurse who would take my blood. In the meantime, I'm asked to give a urine sample.

Wait #6: X-Ray - After giving up a couple of bodily fluids it was time for an x-ray. This wait takes place in the same place as wait #3 which means more news about the terror arrests, more shots of the CN Tower, TSX and Peace Tower and more discussions with police officers, RCMP and Muslim community leaders.

Wait #7: Results - This was supposed to be the last wait. I was back in front of CBC Newsworld awaiting word from the doctor regarding my urine, blood and x-ray. From what I could tell, they were looking for something related to my kidneys which could explain the back pain. The next time my name is called, I'd be done... or so I thought.

Wait #8: Results II - They called my name after wait #7 and told me they needed more blood. Did they lose the original vial? Were they double checking because I tested positive for something serious? Why were they tapping my poor veins for more juice? I was afraid to ask and just did what I was told like a good Canadian boy.

Wait #7 and #8 took a couple of hours combined but in the end, about five hours after I arrived and eight waits later, I was given a prescription for codeine and told to rest my back for a while and time would heal my wound. When I decided this morning to visit the hospital, that was really all I was hoping for. When they test your urine, blood and review your x-rays and find nothing out of the ordinary, that's a good thing. Sucking back codeine like it's candy reduces the sharp pain to a dull ache and a week without ball won't kill me.

This day had eight waits.

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James' First Argos Game

argosThis game had nothing to do with the final score. It honestly didn't matter. This was James' first football game and the first time Ricky Williams touched the ball in a game as a Toronto Argonaut.

Williams only played one quarter and didn't have a single solid rush, but being there for his Argo debut was something special. The last Argo game I attended was Pinball's last game as a player so it's fitting I return to witness Williams' first. As games go, it was a dog with fleas, but that didn't matter. The real fun began after the game concluded.

Fans are invited onto the field after all home Argonaut games. James and I waited patiently for the go ahead and ran that field like we had just won the Grey Cup. James was literally rolling around on the turf as I snapped picture after picture. Soon, the players began taking the field to meet and greet fans and sign autographs. I said hi to Eric Crouch and others while keeping a look out for #27.

I honestly didn't think he'd come out to meet us, assuming he was too popular and it might be a security risk or something. Then, he appeared. Ricky Williams began making his way along the barricade signing everything presented to him. I stood six feet away from him for ten minutes, holding James and just taking in everything Williams' said and did. He was totally patient and way nicer than he had to be, and then I found myself side by side with him looking him in the eye. I wasn't even thinking about getting an autograph, I just wanted to snap a picture of him and say hi. I ended up saying three words to him. "Welcome to Toronto".

It was surreal. I saw Ricky Williams' first play as an Argo, his first quarter of action and I got to meet him. At St. George station, way past his bedtime, James fell asleep in my arms and I carried him the rest of the way home. We just got in and I'm still buzzed. Tonight, the score didn't matter one iota. This was about something better.

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That's It For Dougie

nflDeciding to completely ignore my plea, Doug Flutie has called it a career. They list him at 5-foot-10, but there's no way he's that tall. 5-feet-8 would probably be closer to the truth. What he lacked in stature he more than made up for in heart. The highlights break nicely into three categories.

The Magic Flutie
In 1984, at the Orange Bowl, his Hail Mary pass to Gerry Phelan won it for Boston College. He won the Heisman that year, and was already a legend.

O Canada!
Here in Canada, Flutie became an honourary Canuck when he played eight years for the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts. It was only eight years, but he made the most of it, winning the league's outstanding player award six times and capturing three Grey Cup rings. He didn't just win three Grey Cups, he won three Grey Cup MVP awards.

The Bill
In 1998, Flutie signed with my favourite NFL team, the Buffalo Bills. During that first season, he went 8-3 as a starter and followed that up by going 10-5 in 1999. All Flutie did was win, but Wade Phillips made the call that took my love for NFL football and all but destroyed it. He started Rob Johnson ahead of Flutie for the opening round playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. I've written in the past about how this Johnson over Flutie decision affected me. Rob Johnson looked the part but Doug Flutie was the part. Anyone who chooses to cut Flutie and go with Johnson as their starter has absolutley no soul, brains or a snowball's chance in hell of winning anything. History has proven me right.

Farewell, Dougie.

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100 Wedding Songs

WeddingI mentioned I was putting together a wedding playlist for my brother's wedding next month. I wanted 100 songs that were decent, wouldn't offend and had an appropriate theme for such an occasion. This wasn't as easy as it sounds, and to make things a little trickier, I capped the number of songs per artist at two.

Here's my initial stab at it. I've got a bit of time to perfect this before I cut the disc. If there's a song on this list you passionately disagree with, let me know in the comments. Conversely, if there's a song missing that you believe absolutely has to be there, chime in.

Without further ado, here are the Wedding 100, sorted alphabetically by artist.

  1. 311 - Love Song
  2. 54-40 - Nice to Luv You
  3. Al Green - Let's Get Married
  4. Alice Cooper - Be My Lover
  5. Alice in Chains - No Excuses
  6. Arcade Fire - Crown of Love
  7. Arctic Monkeys - A Certain Romance
  8. Audioslave - Show Me How To Live
  9. B-52s - Love Shack
  10. Barenaked Ladies - Be My Yoko Ono
  11. Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts - Something to Live For
  12. Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
  13. The Beatles - In My Life
  14. The Beatles - All You Need Is Love
  15. Ben E. King - Stand By Me
  16. Bif Naked - Lucky
  17. Bill Withers - Lean on Me
  18. Billy Idol - White Wedding
  19. Bloc Party - Banquet
  20. Blue Rodeo - Try
  21. Blue Rodeo - Lost Together
  22. Bob Segar & The Silver Bullet Band - Night Moves
  23. Bruce Cockburn - Lovers In A Dangerous Time
  24. Bush - Comedown
  25. The Chemical Brothers - Let Forever Be
  26. City and Colour - Save Your Scissors
  27. The Clash - Lover's Rock
  28. Collective Soul - Shine
  29. Crowded House - Something So Strong
  30. Custom - Beautiful
  31. Damien Rice - The Blower's Daughter
  32. David Gray - This Year's Love
  33. The Dears - Lost in the Plot
  34. Death Cab For Cutie - Soul Meets Body
  35. Depeche Mode - Just Can't Get Enough
  36. Dido - Thank You
  37. Elton John - Tiny Dancer
  38. Fatboy Slim - Praise You
  39. Feist - Mushaboom
  40. The Flys - Got You (Where I Want You)
  41. Foo Fighters - Walking After You (X-Files Version)
  42. Frank Sinatra - Love and Marriage
  43. Goo Goo Dolls - Iris
  44. Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
  45. Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine
  46. Harry Connick Jr. - We Are In Love
  47. INXS - Never Tear Us Apart
  48. Jack Johnson - Better Together
  49. Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
  50. Jive Bunny - Lover's Mix
  51. Johnny Cash - Bridge Over Troubled Water
  52. Keane - Somewhere Only We Know
  53. Kenny Rogers - She Believes In Me
  54. The La's - There She Goes
  55. Lenny Kravitz - Let Love Rule
  56. Louis Armstrong - What A Wonderful World
  57. Lou Reed - Perfect Day
  58. Moist - Breathe
  59. Neil Young - Love is a Rose
  60. Neil Young - Act of Love
  61. New Pornographers - Mass Romantic
  62. Nirvana - About A Girl
  63. Oasis - Let There Be Love
  64. Odds - Love Is The Subject
  65. Pearl Jam - State of Love and Trust
  66. Pearl Jam - Throw Your Arms Around Me
  67. The Pretenders - I'll Stand By You
  68. Queen - Somebody to Love
  69. Radiohead - A Punchup at a Wedding
  70. Radiohead - True Love Waits
  71. Ray Charles - You Are My Sunshine
  72. R.E.M. - The One I Love
  73. Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody
  74. Sarah Harmer - Open Window (The Wedding Song)
  75. Sarah McLachlan - Hold On
  76. Sinaid O'Connor - Nothing Compares To You
  77. Skydiggers - I Will Give You Everything
  78. Smashing Pumpkins - Today
  79. Smashing Pumpkins - Disarm
  80. Sonic Youth - Superstar
  81. Stars - What the Snowman Learned About Love
  82. Stars - Ageless Beauty (The Most Serene Republic Remix)
  83. Stone Roses - Love Spreads
  84. Stone Temple Pilots - Interstate Love Song
  85. Switchfoot - Meant To Live
  86. Tears For Fears - Sowing The Seeds Of Love
  87. Three Dog Night - Joy To The World
  88. The Tragically Hip - Long Time Running
  89. Travis - Sing
  90. Treble Charger - Red
  91. The Turtles - Happy Together
  92. U2 - One
  93. U2 - All I Want Is You
  94. Van Morrison - Have I Told You Lately
  95. Van Morrison - Into The Mystic
  96. The Verve - Lucky Man
  97. The Watchmen - All Uncovered
  98. Weezer - Perfect Situation
  99. The White Stripes - Fell in Love With A Girl
  100. Willie Nelson - Always On My Mind

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My Organ & Tissue Donation

TrilliumHere in Ontario they've launched Gift of Life Donor Cards. There's a marketing push right now to get people to sign these donor cards, thereby consenting to donate organs and tissue upon death. It's not enough, however, to simply sign the card. It's important to tell your family about your decision and ensure your loved ones are aware of your wish.

My loved ones read this public web site. There is no bigger pulpit from which I can shout these words. In the event of my death, I consent to donate any needed organs or tissue in the hope that I may help others.

I'm hoping I can stick around for a while. I really want to see what kind of people James and Michelle become, I'd love to participate in a Stanley Cup parade on Yonge Street and I'd get a kick out of scoring that senior discount on haircuts. I'm hopeful to live a good fifty years more, but if I should die in my sleep tonight, let there be no doubt as to where I stand on the issue of organ and tissue donation. It's first come, first serve and everything is available.

If I can enhance one person's life in death, that's a very good thing.

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