On the seventh Date of Christmas, my true love saw with me: Judy

We’ve got some catching up to do on this amazing Christmas 2018 gift where Cathy promises to see one movie every month with me with “no whining.” So on Saturday, off we went to see the Judy Garland biopic Judy, starring a very convincing Renée Zellwegger.

JudyPoster

So here’s a brief review.

A) Renee Zelwegger is VERY convincing and I’m sure she’ll get nominated for whatever the awards are.

B) I am not convinced that the onstage band is actually playing the arrangement we’re hearing. This is a risk when you have violins and trombones on stage. We can tell by the way their arms are moving whether they’re faking.

C) Here’s a crazy idea. How about a movie about a famous musician who did NOT have a difficult and depressing life? After learning about Freddy Mercury and Elton John and Don Shirley during this journey, I’m ready for a great story about a musician who had a happy childhood, worked hard and became a success without alienating everybody or turning to drugs.

Hmm. Maybe we need an Anne Murray movie next.

bonus live theatre – The Band’s Visit

The following day we went to the Ed Mirvish Theatre to see the Tony Award winning musical The Band’s Visit. I had offered to Cathy that – given the price of the tickets – maybe this could count for the July/August/September movies that she still owes me, but she graciously declined, meaning we still have some movie catching up to do.

I loved this musical.
I loved the original film, and this production included Sasson Gabay reprising his role as the leader of the Alexandria Police Ceremonial Orchestra who wind up in the wrong small town in Egypt.

It’s the story of a talented group of musicians who think they are bringing culture to a sophisticated place, only to discover they are among a group of dullards in an exceedingly boring backwater town. No, wait, that was the last time Argonotes visited Hamilton.

Anyway.
It was a great musical on a small scale, that I enjoyed much more than many of the huge productions we’ve seen lately.

And since we were in row 4, I had a pretty good opportunity to decide if the on-stage musicians were actually playing.

I’m suspicious about one clarinetist, but everybody else was playing, even the trumpet player although he barely new enough of a scale to play the opening part of My Funny Valentine, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he’d taken trumpet lessons just for this show.

I’m excited about seeing The Music Man on Broadway starring Hugh Jackman in 2020! THEY better be playing, although it will be very hard to top this 2000 Broadway production where the entire cast learned enough trombone to make for a spectacular encore:

Stupid interview puzzles

My high school friend Gary pointed out an interesting article — Elon Musk asks this tricky interview question that most people can’t answer — about Elon Musk and his hiring techniques at SpaceX, which got me wondering about this popular idea of challenging job applicants to solve the interviewer’s favourite puzzle.

Briefly, Musk asks people this question when hiring –

the puzzle

“You’re standing on the surface of the Earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?”

and in the article above they even have a video where they ask people in the street this question.

one answer

One answer, and by far the most common one, is The north pole. If you’re at the north pole and you walk a mile south, and a mile west, and a mile north, then you’re back at the North Pole.

another answer

Pole

Musk then asks, Where else could it be? and apparently sits back and waits for you to come up with another possibility, namely at a point near the South Pole. If you are just a wee bit north of the south pole, then you can hike one mile west in a perfect one-mile-circumference circle around the pole and be back where you started. Any point one mile north of this circle would be another answer.

The article says –

Once the applicant arrives at this answer, Musk then asks, “Where else could it be?” A second answer to the puzzle is near the South Pole, where the Earth has a one mile circumference. You’ll walk one mile south to reach this circle, trace that mile-long circle’s path, and return one mile north to your starting point. Fewer engineers give this answer, according to Vance.

Like this helpful not-to-scale diagram I just whipped up.

If you want to get all mathie here, a path of circumference 1 mile would have a radius of 1/(2π) miles, so starting at a point of 1 + 1/(2π) miles north of the pole would be an acceptable answer to this puzzle.

Of course that’s not just one point. ANY point on the circle 1 + 1/(2π) ~= 1.16 miles north of the south pole is an answer.


the discussion

“Fewer engineers give this answer”, the article says, and it continues to say…

Luckily for his applicants, Musk doesn’t place much emphasis on whether applicants give the right answer, explains the author. Instead, he uses their response to analyze how they process information and approach problem solving.

Given SpaceX’s mission, to send humans to Mars, employees must be able to reason their way through problems and find novel solutions.

here’s what bugs me

You know what, Elon, there are even more answers to this puzzle. What if, in walking west, you went twice around the south pole, along a circle of circumference 1/2 mile, with radius 1/(4π)? So now any point 1 + 1/(4π) ~= 1.08 miles north of the south pole is ALSO a legitimate answer.

Or if you went three times around the south pole, circumference 1/3 mile, radius 1/(6π) ? Any point 1 + 1/(6π) miles north of the south pole is ANOTHER answer. And so on.

So there are even more answers than Elon Musk, in his wisdom, is looking for.

what are we measuring here?

I suspect that interviewers, including Elon Musk, think that a puzzle like this is measuring the applicant’s problem solving ability.

I think it’s actually measuring whether the applicant has heard of this puzzle and its answers before. There are widely publicized lists of trick interview questions and answers like this, where the goal is to come up with the clever answer the interviewer wants.

Here’s a book full of interview puzzles that I enjoyed –

How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft’s Cult of the Puzzle — How the World’s Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers

back in my day

It would not surprise you to know that I was on the Math Team in high school.

Once a month or so, every high school in the city would send a five person team to my school, London Central, and we’d do problems in the cafeteria and declare a winner.

Central did pretty well when I was on the team.

I thought I might carry this secret to my grave, but I’ll spill the beans here: one reason we did well was because the organizer of the contests was a teacher at our school, and he happened to go to the school library to consult books of puzzles to come up with the questions for the contest.

all of which I had previously read. multiple times. I loved those puzzle books. No wonder Central usually won these contests.

It wasn’t a Triple Reverse. Not even a “double reverse.” Maybe a 1.5

Here at blog.hayman.net, we are not afraid to discuss the big issues, the topics that matter, the truly important questions that unite us all.

Be that as it may, today we’ll do some football nitpicking.

The Argos played Montreal in a very entertaining “home” game in Moncton last weekend and although the outcome wasn’t quite what we wanted, there were some great plays.

Including this one.

Which everybody – TSN commentator Rod Black, even the CFL’s official account – wants to call a triple reverse.

Let’s watch it again, shall we? Here’s the official call. See our additional video analysis below.

OK. I am no football expert, but I’m pretty good at counting (and I have the math degree to prove it.)

A reverse is where you hand the ball to one player A who runs one way, and then he hands it to player B, who’s running the opposite, or reverse way.

In a double reverse, player B hands it to someone else – maybe A, maybe a third player, but let’s call them C – who is running the opposite way, which is now the original way.

Still with me? A double reverse has TWO reverses in it, right?

A triple reverse is incredibly rare. C would have to hand the ball off to D, who is running the opposite opposite opposite way. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one. (If you find a video of one, let me know.)

So what’s going on in this play from Moncton?
* The quarterback, Vernon Adams Jr, hands off the ball to #24, Jeremiah Johnson
* Johnson runs to the sideline, hands the ball to #9, Jake Wieneke.
* Wieneke heads the other way, back towards the quarterback. This is a reverse.
* Wieneke pitches the ball back to the quarterback. This is not quite a reverse, the quarterback isn’t moving the opposite way
* The quarterback throws it down the field and … well the rest isn’t important.

And yet, TSN’s Rod Black called it a Triple Reverse and the CFL has even bragged about it. Just because there’s three guys handling the ball doesn’t make it a triple reverse.

Here, then, is our investigative report.

followup: my thanks to Anthony Reimer who kindly pointed out, post investigation, and beyond the point where I felt like editing the video any more, that the best terminology for this is probably a reverse, followed by a flea flicker.

#SongsInCode

#songsInCode

This was a really silly meme circulating on Twitter exactly 10 years ago. The idea is to write song lyrics in pseudocode. I seem to have been a little obsessed with it.

Let’s hope you can still decode some of these. (And for the record I was not the only person getting a little carried away with this topic.)

And of course I decided I had a typo on one, and had to correct it later –

On selling football

Selling Football

(Some thoughts condensed from a series of tweets you might have already read.)

Last night Nick and I greatly enjoyed seeing the Argos beat Winnipeg for their first win of the season. It was a very entertaining game where the Argos overcame a 20-0 deficit to win 28-27.
Nick and Me pregame

As usual the process of logging in to Ticketmaster to download and print my tickets was a pain – yeah, I know, I should use the app, I really do know a thing or two about apps, but I also like having paper tickets. (I like paper boarding passes at the airport too.)

It was a great night in the CFL. Saskatchewan beat Hamilton in the late game – The two home teams win exciting games in the last minute, and their big rivals both lose too. Wish it could be like this every game day.

Also as usual everybody is wringing their hands about the number of empty seats at the game. Here are some thoughts I jotted down.

Most articles you read about a football game focus on the football details, the minutia of passing percentages. The Xs and Os, as they say.

But IMHO, that kind of talk won’t get enough people out of their living rooms to come to the stadium.

Here are Reasons to come to Toronto Argos games:

  • great facility
  • beautiful weather
  • cheap tickets
  • $5 beer
  • $3 hotdogs
  • great dance team
  • fine band
  • free CNE admission (at the next game, anyway)
  • the best fans

Oh and

  • WINNING FOOTBALL

Why don’t we hear more about the game-day experience, the NON-football parts? I wish more media would write about the actual fan experience. What’s it like going to the game? What did you do, what did you see, what was the music like, what was fun or hilarious or strange or amazing in victory or soul-crushing in defeat?

There are certainly lots of reports of the Xs and Os of the game, of which team ran what play and why, about specific minutiae on the field. That’s great, keep those coming – but non-football-experts would read that and think, “I’ll never understand this, why should I go?”

PinballI think it would help to see reports from the casual fan perspective too. Hey, Pinball gave a great pep talk before the game. Pluses and minuses of the halftime show. How did that guy get the trivia contest right? It was cool watching them frantically set up the TD cannon.

Who are all these dancers? What is the deal with the marching band? They’re all 14 year olds from Burlington? Cool. What’s it like sitting with the craziest of crazies in the end zone? Can you actually get a $5 beer?

Report on the whole game day event, not just the game play.

The kid who held up the sign that he was beating cancer, so the Argos should beat the Bombers, and got a standing ovation. The air force pilot honoured during a break. Former cheerleaders back for a reunion. I want to read about all this too, not just pass completion stats.

While we’re at it, if we want more people to come to the games, then instead of just saying “Only in the CFL” when something like this happens – how about explaining what the heck is going on to potential new fans and why it makes the CFL game special?

If you can’t tell, I love the CFL and the Toronto Argos, I want the league to thrive so some day I can bring my grandkids to the game. It’s a great game day experience, a great outing win or lose, even for non experts. But I’m worried when I see so many empty seats, league-wide.

Here’s our view of the game winning last minute touchdown. I wish more people could experience how much fun the whole environment is, before, during and after the game, from the fan’s perspective. But you’ll never know that, reading about the game afterwards.

My point, and somewhere in here I do have one, is that just selling people on the merits of the football itself isn’t going to do it. There aren’t enough football experts to fill any CFL building. Gotta sell the whole game day experience and atmosphere to get folks to leave home. I know everybody at MLSE is trying hard to do this. I’d love to see reporting on the game day atmosphere once in a while too.

On the sixth Date of Christmas, my true love – and a few others – saw with me: Rocketman

Happy Father’s Day to me! My three sons were persuaded that if we all went to see Rocketman, that that would be a great Father’s Day gift, so off we went to the aptly-domain-named Film.Ca cinemas, and the on-again off-again 12 Dates of Christmas gift was on again.

460x0w

I think it was the first time we’d had that combination of the lads and me and Cathy all out to the movies in quite a while.

do i have any amusing anecdotes about the actual theatre going experience this time?

no.

Well, on the way there, Nick announced he would be singing along to the chorus in Crocodile Rock – you know, the part that goes La, la-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-laa, La-la-la-la-la….

so I made sure I wasn’t sitting right next to him.

did I like the movie?

Well, the first part, sure. The big Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting production number had me leaning over to Cathy to whisper something along the lines of “I’m quite enjoying this so far.”

But the movie took a pretty dark turn. Admittedly, I am a casual Elton John fan but not up on his whole family story, and his family story could be described as: dark. Sad. Unfortunate. Elton, I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I’m glad that things seem to be better for you now. Especially after you married your Canadian husband!

what about the guy?

Taron Egerton, who I knew nothing about, was great, there wasn’t a single moment when I didn’t believe I was actually watching Elton John. He’s a very convincing singer.

did elton john really take a cab from Madison Square Garden directly to what appears to be a rehab center in the UK?

I dunno. Go check Wikipedia, maybe it says something there.

did they do that song about candles in the wind?

No

did they do that frequent hollywood bit where the end of the movie shows a variety of self-congratulatory scenes showing something in the movie and a similar real-life shot to prove that they got it right?

of course.

how many of these movies you’ve seen with Cathy have been about rocket men?

Hmm. About a third. This one, and this one too.

is there another Elton John biography film that you like, preferably one that’s nice and short albeit running in reverse chronological order?

Funny you should ask. This commercial from John Lewis is pretty great. And not nearly as sad.

Rejoining the Breakpoints after 17 years

So I played in a band at the legendary Ritz in San Jose, California last night.

(below are some of the many great photos of the event by Adam Tow)

The Band
DC25EFB7 1F95 4150 BED4 2935F2271979


The whole event reminded me that it’s not really important how good a musician you are; you should just get together with your friends and play some music.
(And maybe people will come! And they did, in this case; the event was a fundraiser for App Camp for Girls )

Wait, whaaat? What band are you in NOW? I thought the whole football band thing was over. Well, yeah it still is. This time I sat in with James Jdbp square logo 512Dempsey and the Breakpoints at their 8th annual Live Near WWDC concert.

This is an annual concert put on by people attending Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, and it’s spearheaded by my friend James who has written an entire chart-topping album of funny songs celebrating various technical aspects of programming and you can of course listen to the whole album here.

The band featured a whole group of people who are stars in the Mac world – including Daniel Jalkut, author of MarsEdit, the blogging software I am typing in right now – and many other luminaries that I bet most of my friends outside the Mac world have never heard of. But I don’t care! It was great fun to be invited!

for instance

Here’s one of my favourite numbers – The Liki Song (Minawana Meika La’a Likiko)

It’s a little Hawaiian number with James on ukulele – and it’s about memory management. I have to admit, the first time I listened to it – while walking through an airport – I had no idea what the heck James was singing about. “Liki” ? “Mina wana meika la’a likiko”? What the heck? What is he talking about?

And finally it dawned on me – “Me no want to make a lot of leaky code.” That stopped me in my tracks in the airport; I had to sit down, I was laughing so hard. And this was the big closing number at the show, with 24 musicians on stage and the entire crowd singing along. What a treat. So many songs, so many different styles.

how’d this start?

James and I both worked at Apple ages ago – I still do – and both presented at WWDC many times. I distinctly remember one year when I was getting ready for my talk and Matt Firlik announced to me that James had written an original song about Fetch Specifications for his talk, and right then, I knew the best any of the rest of us could hope for was to give the 2nd best presentation.

For years afterwards, the word would get out that James’s WWDC session was almost over and, regardless of topic, people would suddenly arrive for the last 5 minutes to hear his latest song about localization or the perils of designated initializers or whatever else struck his fancy.

A year or two later in 2002, he wrote another song at the developer conference about memory management called Hold Me, Use Me, Release Me – and I knew I had to up my game, and brought my trombone on stage for my own session on WebObjects and I told the crowd that I’d written an original trombone solo about Key-Value Coding, which I hoped I’d have time to perform.

To the great relief of everyone, including me, I did not have time to perform this (nonexistent) solo. But there was some sort of community event that night and James was asked to reprise the Hold Me song, and, well I happened to be around and happened to have a trombone on hand and my arm was twisted ever so slightly so I played along on stage with James.

And that was the last time I did, until 17 years later.

(Ten years later, I was visiting Cathy’s mom at her home in a tiny community in northern New Brunswick and tweeted something about it, and about five minutes later, the phone rang – it was James. “Are you really in Jacquet River, New Brunswick?” he asked in amazement – because it turns out his wonderful father Wilbur lived there too! Small world.)

the breakpoints

James eventually struck out on his own and formed a band of various other members of the geek-Apple community – all very talented musicians – and called the group the Breakpoints. (A breakpoint is a term in software debugging for a location where you want the program to stop so you can see what’s going on.)

He actually wound up with enough material to release an entire album of funny programming songs songs which actually was the #1 comedy album on iTunes for a while (and, if I remember correctly, #1 overall album in Bulgaria).

I was lucky enough to be dubbed a “conditional breakpoint”, i.e. someone who played with the band only rarely.

For years James and his band did these wildly popular fundraisers called “Live Near WWDC”, and I always went, and always enjoyed it, and always secretly wanted to be up there on stage too.

the show

Last night was my chance.
17 years after first playing with James, I was invited back to play trombone on a couple of numbers, including a rockin’ round of trading licks with awesome guitarist Jim Dalrymple, in a song which could only have been improved if I had not forgotten what key it was in part way through. (note: it was in “A”.)

I am saving this tweet –

Wow, was it fun. Over 20 different muisicians in the band – singers, guitarists, drummers, a violin! a cello! And a guy with a blue trombone having the time of his life.

Thank you James. And thanks for the selfie below which you actually took during the middle of my solo, which perhaps caused me to forget the key signature (note, again: “A”)

I hope I can do it again in 2036. Maybe sooner!

Mid Solo

On the fifth Date of Christmas, my true love saw with me: “Aladdin”

[Recap: My wonderful spouse gave me an awesome Christmas gift of agreeing to go to one movie every month. Those of you following along might wonder what happened to April’s movie? Did we see one or not? I have decided that the gift actually means “an AVERAGE of one movie a month” so I’m looking forward to seeing two in June. Or perhaps seven in November.]

Last night we went to see ‘Aladdin’ with our great friends – and fellow extreme Disney cruisers – Ron and Linda, at the lovely “Wow, Did We Ever Get A Great Domain Name” Film.ca Cinema, which advertises itself proudly as “Oakville’s Favourite Cinema.”

Aladdin poster

Things got off to a less then auspicious beginning when this dialogue happened:

Me: “Two tickets to Aladdin please.”

Cashier, sincerely attempting to be helpful: “Will that be a General Admission ticket or …”

… awkward pause …

Me: “NO I DO NOT NEED A SENIORS TICKET THANK YOU VERY MUCH”

Helpful spouse: “Well it won’t be much longer.”

IMG 0305

Anyway. The movie is gorgeous to look at, and it was interesting to see credits acknowledging both governments of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the Canadian Province of British Columbia. Try and guess which parts were filmed where.

But I am left with a few questions …

  • Why even make this movie? Didn’t we already have a perfectly good ‘Aladdin’ (Well, if you don’t know the answer to a question, the answer is usually “Money.”)

Disney certainly enjoys pounding good ideas into the ground. The Lion King started out animated, turned into a Broadway show, and is returning as a – well, not exactly “live action” movie, but a different kind of animated movie with CGI animals on real backgrounds or something and it’s getting hard to know how to name these things. Maybe Disney should do it the way Apple names laptops. “Lion King Late 2019”.

I remember when we saw the Broadway production of “The Lion King” at the Princess of Wales theatre and my niece announced that she preferred the original Lion King animated film over the Broadway show because it had, and I quote, “real lions.”

  • Is it possible that somebody can actually make me long for the singing talents of Robin Williams? (Yes. Will Smith really can’t sing.)

  • Why did they cut that “A Whole New World” song out of the movie? (Note: It’s possible that they didn’t, and that the song may have happened while I excused myself to go to the mens room.)

Maybe I’m getting old – perhaps the cashier is on to something – but I didn’t particularly like this movie. There are a lot of very clever lyrics in the songs, some of which go by way too fast for anybody to decipher, and this Aladdin guy is a pickpocket and why are we exactly are they celebrating that, but on the other hand, Disney loves celebrating pirates on their cruises and pirates are actually thieves and criminals, and isn’t there some sort of time travel loop going on here because by the end of the film, the genie turns out to be the guy telling the story about the genie at the beginning of the film, but anyway ⭑⭑⭑⭑ because it was, as always, fun going to the movies with friends and my wonderful and still much younger than me ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑ wife.

Quest for the Holy Autograph

In which I try to get John Cleese’s autograph.

flashback, waterloo, 1985

In 1985 or so, I went with some friends to a lecture in the Humanities Theatre at the University of Waterloo by Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. (King Arthur, from the Holy Grail, as if you needed a reminder.) Graham Chapman Portrait

I remember Chapman came out and said “I’d like to start this lecture with two minutes of abuse. Go on. Let me have it!” and we all started yelling silly insults at him. It was a fun talk – he told stories, talked about his involvement with the Dangerous Sports Club, and after the talk a few of my friends and I decided we’d get an autograph, and met him in the green room at the theatre.

He was gracious, and charming, and kindly signed my copy of the script of Monty Python and the Holy Grail which I just happened to have with me. “To Steve, with best wishes, from Graham Chapman” and he drew a giant arrow pointing to his own name just in case it wasn’t clear which one he was. I loved that flourish.

Autographed Script

Of course he then went and died a few years later, so this remains one of my most prized possessions, stored in a place of honour on my office bookshelf (right next to my autographed copy of K&R, “The C Programming Language”.)

Autographed copy of The C Programming Language

Incidentally the Kernighan and Ritchie autographs happened about 8 years apart. I saw Kernighan give a lecture on Software Tools in 1981 in London just as I’d started my first job, and that really got me hooked on Unix. Happened to meet Dennis Ritchie many years later at a USENIX conference and, naturally, I just happened to have my copy of the book on hand in the elevator. Two of my technical heroes, and I got to meet them and say hi.

more time passes

For years I have been meaning to get a few more autographs on the Python script. Terry Jones. Terry Gilliam. Michael Palin. Eric Idle. John Cleese. They are all comedy legends – and some of them occasionally wind up in Toronto for one reason or another.

Terry Jones, alas, is not well, suffering from dementia and has withdrawn from public life.

Michael Palin was here a few months ago promoting his wonderful book “Erebus” on the Franklin Expeditions, and I found out about it too late (like, five minutes before the show) to get a ticket. (My brother in law went, thanks for not telling me about this.)

But wait, what’s this? John Cleese will be speaking at Roy Thomson Hall in May 2019? How cool would it be to get a 2nd autograph on the script, 34 years after the first one? And how many more chances will I ever get?

I dropped a serious hint with Cathy that this would be an awesome surprise present for me, and she got us some great seats WAY ahead of time, and accompanied me to the show last night.

Naturally I was pretty excited, and brought the book and a pen with me in the hopes I might be able to get an autograph. To my dismay I discovered that there was an official Meet and Greet reception after the show – for another $275 – and I would gladly have paid to get in there, but it was sold out.

I took a shot in Twitter in the chance that somebody – maybe the event’s host, John Moore of CFRB 1010 radio – would have an idea about getting an autograph.

John Moore graciously replied and of course he had other priorities than worrying about me –

but we went anyway and hoped for the best.

the show

The lecture was great fun. Cleese spoke for an hour about how there is no Hope, and nobody knows what to do about anything, and that it is perhaps better if we just accept that and enjoy life. He then took (emailed) questions from the audience for another 45 minutes.

IMG 9950

Cathy urged me to email a question. “You’ll regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t.”
I did send one in – “Can you tell us a good Graham Chapman story?” – but they didn’t get to it.

after the show

A reception took place for people who had the foresight to buy a meet-and-greet ticket, and I wandered around to the Roy Thomson Hall stage door in the hopes of getting a last minute autograph. I could see into the reception room. People were lining up to get a picture, people were getting memorabilia autographed, I was standing outside in the rain, hoping against hope that I might be able to show John Cleese this autograph of his friend Graham Chapman and get him to add one more. I was imagining the witty repartee we’d engage in.

Then a few things happened.

  • A professional autograph seeker was also hanging around. One of the sort of people who have just turned autographs into a business and probably ruined it for normal people. We talked for a bit. He was obviously interested in getting signatures he could sell. He told me he’d got Christopher Plummer to sign something from this exact spot a few months ago. I guess he’s only after the 80 year old celebrities. Maybe that makes sense.
  • Big security guy came out and shooed us away. You can’t stand here. Go stand over there 200 feet away if you like.
  • Pro autograph guy says “See that white volvo? That’s the car he’ll be getting into.”
  • We wait, far away from the white volvo
  • The lights flash on the volvo! Someone has opened the door! Someone’s coming out!
  • We scurry back. One professional autograph reseller, and me, someone who I think is just a genuine fan wanting to say hello to one of his comedy heroes.
  • Several security guards step out and shoo us both away. But but but but ….
  • Cleese comes out, bundled up against the cold and rain, heads straight into the car and is driven away.

Sigh.

I guess I could have been more assertive there and yelled something but the guy is 80 years old and it’s cold and raining and I’m sure he would just like to get to the hotel and if I was a REAL fan I would have ponied up for the expensive meet and greet somehow, along with all the other people who I’m sure are not real fans.

The script remains bereft of any additional autographs.

It’s certainly uncontaminated by Cleese.

But … he’s speaking again in Buffalo next Tuesday, hmm…..

Or maybe this can just remain a fond memory of a chance I had to actually see and enjoy John Cleese, even if I didn’t get the autograph. I can tell the story of the near miss for years, just like my other annoying story of the Time I Almost Met Marvin Hamlisch (blog post on THAT to come.)

Fond memories of Joe Badali’s Restaurant

Joe Badali’s restaurant – sadly, now closed – was a great friend of Argonotes. It was the closest thing to a sponsor we ever had.

Badali's web site screenshot. Now closed.

Nick and I went to the Jays home opener yesterday, which I think was the first time I’d been back to Skydome since the Argo era there ended. This triggered lots of fond Argonotes memories of course. Especially the old tradition of emptying the spit valves on the statue of Ted Rogers.

The Final Emptying of the Spit Valves

But I was sad after the game as we walked back to Union Station to see that Joe Badali’s Restaurant (at Front and Simcoe) has closed, and the building it’s in is being gutted, and the adjacent parking lot is now fenced off. Yet another office tower is going up.

Badali’s holds a special spot in Argonotes history. Before our very first game in 1995, we barged in there to play “Argos Rule the CFL” – to a reaction of befuddlement and confusion. But it got better.

For over 20 years, it was where we started and ended every performance. “Meet at Front and Simcoe 90 minutes before kickoff” was the usual rule. We’d gather in the adjacent parking lot for a warmup – where we’d make sure nobody had tuned their instruments, ever – and play for the crowd there, and then head over to Skydome, crashing other restaurants along the way. And we’d always wind up at Badali’s after the game too, for drinks and conversation.

Warming up in the Badali's parking lot

For a few years, it was the official post game Argo bash spot, and everybody would gather there – players, dance team, fans, band – and former manager Mike O’Connor always made sure there was a reserved table for the band. And free beer and appetizers too. I couldn’t believe it. What had we ever done to deserve this grand treatment? A packed restaurant full of people celebrating an Argo victory – and there’s a reserved table for 30 people for the band? This is great, but why? IMG 0327

(Well, I always thought it was part of an unspoken arrangement: we’ll buy you a beer so long as you don’t ever barge in here and play “Argos Rule the CFL” ever again. go crash the Lone Star and Boston Pizza and East Side Mario’s all you want though.)

Doug Flutie came and sat at the band table once. Doug Flutie! The greatest quarterback in CFL history! And he came and sat at OUR table! I can’t imagine that happening in the NFL. Players mingling with ordinary people. (Naturally we asked him if his Flutie Brothers Band needed another 40 members, and he pointed out “I already have horns in the band.” Well OK then.)

Even after it was no longer the official spot – for one awkward year, the official post game restaurant was Frank D’Angelo’s “Forget About It” Supper Club – fans and players continued to celebrate or commiserate after the games at Badali’s.

Badali’s was also the gathering spot for several CFL Pep Band Summits – wonderful Grey Cup get-togethers with Argonotes and our great friends, the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep band.
This is the 2012 Summit, possibly history’s largest gathering of CFL Musicians. And there’s Bob Mossing, Member of the Order of Canada, Founder of the Roughrider Pep Band –

CFL Band Summit 2012

(Note, former BC Lions band leader Dal Richards is also a member of the Order of Canada. I presume they eventually give this to all CFL band leaders. I will keep an eye on my email.)

Hanging out with the Rider band provided some of my greatest Argonotes memories – and we kicked off the 2007 “Not The Grey Cup Parade” from the Badali’s parking lot!

I celebrated both my 40th and 50th birthday parties at Badali’s, surrounded by all my band friends and family. I was looking forward to celebrating the next big birthday there too … But the Argos moved to BMO Field, the band got ignored to death, and I hadn’t been back to Front and Simcoe until yesterday.

Thank you to Mike, who’s moved on, and all the wonderful staff at Badali’s over the years who treated us so well. We miss you.