Sometime during 2011, essentially on a whim, I decided that I wanted to read every book written on the subject of the financial crisis of 2007-08.
What would motivate someone to undertake such a project? Eh, who knows why people do the things they do? As far as I can remember, I had two main motives: one general and one specific.
Generally, I’ve always had a vague desire to pick one subject and just read everything I could about it. Whenever I read a work of nonfiction, no matter how good or thorough it is, I have this feeling that I’m only getting some of the story. I’m only seeing reality as filtered through the author. The stories told are the ones the author found interesting; the opinions featured are the ones of this writer’s sources; the quotes are the ones he happened to write down. Even the most evenhanded and objective writer retains some biases, if only due to the natural limitations on research and reporting. When I read nonfiction, I always feel keenly aware of this. As a result, a book that’s supposed to inform me often ends up highlighting what I still don’t know.
This problem doesn’t really have a solution—nobody can be a firsthand witness to everything—but reading the same story multiple times is at least a better approximation of reality than reading it just once. After all, the police don’t stop the investigation after interviewing one witness. Of course, there’s a reason most people don’t read this way: It is, by design, very, very repetitive. You’d end up reading slightly different versions of the same story over and over again, intentionally making a leisure activity less fun.
Nevertheless, the cumulative nagging of years of nonfiction motivated me to at least try this method once. No matter the subject, I felt like the experiment would at least give me a better sense of the systemic biases of nonfiction.
Which brings me to the specific reason of why this subject. Continue reading »
“I’m always looked at as, like, I don’t know… not that good at shit. I’m not good at challenges. I’m not good at elimination rounds. But I never wanted to let Emily down, so I did the best I could.” —Paula
“Third place is not my destiny!” —Emily
It may be anticlimactic, but it’s always nice when the team that deserves to win actually wins. And for both the guys and the girls, the winning pair for Rivals II was the team that performed the best throughout the Challenge.
First of all, Emily/Paula were obviously the best female team. They may not have dominated as much as I initially expected—early on I said they might go undefeated in challenges, which obviously didn’t pan out—but they were clearly the alphas on the girls’ side throughout. Even when they did lose, it was a surprise. Continue reading »
“I really want to win this Challenge. I feel like I’m one of the best competitors to ever be on The Challenge, and at the same time I feel like the Dan Marino of The Challenge. One of the best quarterbacks ever, a Hall of Famer—doesn’t have a ring. I don’t want to be Dan Marino. I want to be Tom Brady.” —C.T.
“I will be shot before I let Camila and Jemmye beat me to that yacht.” —Emily
People complain a lot about gimmickry in sports. Of course, what makes something a “gimmick” usually depends on your perspective. Baseball’s second wildcard certainly seems like a gimmick… until you’re a Yankees fan with no other hope of seeing the postseason.
Still, one gimmick I am decidedly against is eliminating players in the middle of a challenge. It seems to me that the whole point of devising these long, elaborate Final Challenges is so the teams have to be good at a lot of different things in order to win. That way, teams that fall behind after one event can make it up in the future. Conversely, teams that build big leads are always in danger of blowing it if they run into something they can’t do.
But eliminating a team after the first leg of a multistage challenge erases these possibilities. If the thing you’re weakest at happens to come first, then you are shit out of luck. This looked to be the case for Cooke/Cara Maria on Wednesday night, when Cara Maria, who had been violently dreading any swimming on the Final Challenge, had to swim her way to the first puzzle. And, indeed, Cooke/Cara Maria were the last team to start the puzzle, but luckily they were able to make up ground on the puzzle itself. Camila/Jemmye were not as lucky—their weakness was puzzles, and their inability to finish the puzzle on “Dream Island” got them eliminated from the game for good. Continue reading »
“No matter what, people will not be friends after this.” —Paula
Diem: “I’m really confused.”
Wes: “That’s an emotional thing.”
Diem: “I’m an emotional person!”
I have been watching the Challenge for many, many years—not quite since the beginning, but close. And I’ve watched half a dozen Real World seasons as well. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the entire cast turn to the cameraman, point, and yell, “Go!” the way they did in Wednesday’s episode of Rivals II, after Diem followed C.T. away from the pool.
The confrontation itself was a bit of a letdown—they both just stuck to their guns—but it shows how invested everyone involved in the show—cast, crew, and audience—is in C.T. and Diem. The conflict between the two former lovers was pretty small—C.T. didn’t vote the way Diem would have liked—but it became a kind of Rorschach test for how everyone perceives C.T. Continue reading »
As I said last year, it now seems like the fall is the worst season for television. The new shows are mostly on networks, which means the good ones will likely be cancelled in a few weeks, and the best of cable—Breaking Bad, Louie, Wilfred, Pretty Little Liars, Mad Men—seems to air on a summer or spring schedule. Still, there are some great shows coming back this fall, and the sheer quantity of new shows means there’s bound to be something good. Here are the 10 most intriguing shows…
10) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Premieres September 24 on ABC
I’ve pretty much abandoned network dramas at this point, but this one is from Joss/Jed Whedon, which bodes well. Plus, given the Avengers pedigree, it’s likely to last at least a full year.
Continue reading »
“She was about to tell me she loves me. Now she’s snoring.” —C.T.
“We ran circles around everyone that even attempted to do it… There is not a single person who’s not shaking in their boot.” —Wes
There’s a common fallacy in life that is always brilliantly illustrated on the Challenge—namely, the belief that if someone’s personal interests don’t align with your own, he is morally at fault. We saw this two weeks ago, when Frank took great umbrage with Jordan’s resistance to being voted in even though that’s what Frank wanted. It was as if Frank could not recognize that Jordan’s priorities might differ from his own.
On Wednesday, that same thing was on display, though this time it was two teams that were safe from the Jungle going at it. After Marlon/Jordan got voted in against Knight/Preston, thereby guaranteeing spots in the Final for C.T./Wes and Johnny/Frank, the two surviving teams went at it. Initially, it was all innocent trash talk, with Wes pointing out that Johnny nearly fainted after this week’s challenge, and therefore wasn’t much of a threat in the Final. Johnny responded by invoking Wes’ abysmal Final performance in the original Rivals season. Continue reading »
“We can only promise each other until the cards run out.” —Frank
“I’m the one person that never said a negative thing about this fucking piece of shit.” —Camila
Let’s talk about the shadow of the future. For those not familiar with the work of Robert Axelrod, the term basically means that, when two people face the possibility of interacting at some undetermined point in the future, they are more likely to cooperate with each other, even if cheating each other might be more advantageous in the present. In other words, you’re not going to screw someone over if you think you might run into that person again.
And I’m wondering if that affected Frank’s decision to vote in Jonna, a close friend he had promised to protect. His reasoning was that he didn’t have a choice—Camila/Jemmye won immunity, and Cooke/Cara Maria finished last in the challenge. This only left Aneesa/Diem, Paula/Emily, and Jonna/Nany, all teams Johnny/Frank were aligned with. So even though he swore “Jonna’s name will not come out of my mouth”—a promise he technically kept by letting Johnny vote for the team—he voted in his friend. Continue reading »
“I always say: All is fair in love, war, and Challenges.” —Johnny
“There will be blood.” —Cara Maria
Frank is ridiculous. That is the conclusion I’ve reached after watching him for two seasons now. He gets so absurdly, unjustifiably upset about such strange things—he’s like the understudy Jerry dated on Seinfeld.
In Wednesday’s episode, he lashed out at Jordan, multiple times, simply because Jordan accused him of campaigning to have him thrown into the Jungle, which is exactly what Frank was doing. But not only did Frank insist that such allegations “could not be more untrue,” he acted like Jordan accused him of violating the sanctity of the Sunday truce or something. And by getting so angry with Jordan—and borderline violent—all he did was make Marlon/Jordan, a strong team, more deadest on going after him.* Continue reading »
“There are two things about Paula that everybody knows. One is that she’s crazy and two is that she has great boobs.” —Emily
“I don’t think Jordan necessarily backstabbed me. I think he stabbed me straight to the face.” —Theresa
Is a smile technically a “body part”? Is hair? No, of course not. The only body parts that really matter are the secondary sex characteristics of females. Unless you’ve got arms like Cara Maria, that is. That girl’s got guns.
These were among the many lessons of last night’s episode of Rivals II, which eschewed a physical challenge for a Newlywed Game-style trivia contest called “Frenemies.”* For all the work MTV does designing intense physical games (work that often pays off but occasionally backfires), it’s best games are often the ones where they just ask the contestants simple questions. Continue reading »