Like everyone, I’m sad and angry about Friday’s tragedy. But I keep hearing that now is the time to discuss gun control. So, fine, let’s discuss…
—It’s unfortunate that so many people now dismiss the idea that there should be a window of mourning, during which political discussions ought to be tabled, after a national tragedy like Friday’s shooting. I understand why that is: Calls to postpone talk of politics are so often themselves politically motivated, a way to put off a conversation one side never intends to have, that they seem cynical. But it should be obvious that the time for policy discussions is not when people are angry, sad, depressed, scared, emotional, and irrational. This is what leads to laws like the Patriot Act. It’s not that policy discussions should never flow from a national tragedy, and obviously knowing how long to wait is tricky, but I suspect the answer is at least a few hours, maybe even a day or two.
—Why do so many of the same people who (rightfully) laugh at the idea that drug prohibition decreases drug use, endorse the idea that gun control will solve the problem of gun violence? Gun control does not mean that bad or crazy people won’t get guns; it means the government will get to decide who gets to have guns. This is the same government, of course, that kills foreign Muslims almost indiscriminately, that imprisons blacks at six times the rate it imprisons whites, that systematically harasses young men based on their ethnic background. But for some reason people think new gun laws would be enforced fairly and equitably.
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“Everyone’s puking. I’ve never seen so many people go to the medic in my life.” —Zach
“I have the endurance of a young, virgin colt.” —Chet
As is the custom for the penultimate episode of the Challenge, MTV relocated somewhere even more remote in last night’s episode, in this case Namibia. The contestants always get really excited when they find out where they are going, which makes sense, but from a viewer’s perspective, it’s like, Eh, one foreign country’s the same as the next.
On the other hand, the location of the final challenge always shapes its look, and Namibia seems to mean deserts. Last night’s challenge, though, was pretty basic, as they have generally been all season long: Called “Sling Shot,” the team’s were split in pairs, where one player rode a four-wheel ATV that pulled the other along a ramp and shot them into the water. Once in the water, that player had to swim to a bell and back. Continue reading »
“Realistically, I think Brooklyn is a strong team. Do I want to test that theory? Hell no.” —Devyn
“People in the house may think it’s me protecting Jonna. And, actually, that’s what it is.” —Zach
MTV is really drawing out this nadir of a Challenge. Normally, we’d be at the final challenge by now, ten weeks in, but there’s at least one more episode left, and possibly two. Throw in the two off weeks, for Halloween AND Thanksgiving, and this season will have been on for over three months.
And honestly, I’m sick of it. I can’t even figure out what they’re fighting about anymore. After last week’s hissy fit from Dustin about Trishelle’s refusal to volunteer for the Arena, he backed off of his threat to go home in a scene that took about five seconds. So last week’s big “cliffhanger” amounted to nothing. Instead, last night’s episode was devoted to Marie and Robb screaming about how the rest of the teams were all “corny” and “sleazes.” Continue reading »
“A woman would at least be quiet and listen to her men.” —Alton
“There’s a fight in every corner of the house… Where am I?” —Chet
MTV’s fighting policy is weird. There’s zero tolerance for throwing punches, but apparently you get unlimited pushes and shoves, even when someone gets shoved to the ground for no real reason, like Sam was in last night’s episode.
I imagine MTV’s thinking is much like the NHL’s: They don’t want to be seen as condoning fights, but eliminating them completely would take something away from the game. Last night’s episode, in which everyone seemed to be fighting with everyone, showed just how fights and the game are interconnected. Continue reading »
“I didn’t do anything wrong in this game. Not one thing!” —Frank
“I love watching San Diego fight. It’s sort of like a television show. It’s great.” —Trishelle
Last night’s episode picked up where last week’s left off: With San Diego in disarray and Frank as the villain. Zach specifically wanted nothing to do with Frank, while Frank somehow insisted that he did nothing wrong in backing out of the Arena at the last minute.
Luckily for San Diego, last night’s challenge, “Hunger Games,” didn’t really require much in the way of communication: Set up like a 1970s game show (so that MTV could capitalize on the Jennifer Lawrence movie AND Richard Dawson’s popularity), it was basically an eating contest. TJ Lavin would announce a food item, the teams would wager on how much of it they could eat in four minutes, and whomever wagered the highest had to actually do it. Continue reading »
Last week, on Election Day, I found myself in a long Facebook comment thread about the virtues of voting. In it, someone said, “We have perhaps never had a president that has not committed…great acts of evil.” Of course, my first thought on reading that was That sounds like a fun game, and I decided to make a list of the worst* thing every president has done.
*The word “evil,” is of course loaded with all sorts of moral and metaphysical implications, so I’ve slightly reframed it into the “worst” acts every president has done. To be sure, many of these are clearly evil, but I wanted to include every president, and it’s hard to find something really “evil” that, say, William Henry Harrison did.
A quick note: First of all, I’m only including things they did as president. So the fact that Thomas Jefferson probably raped his slaves doesn’t count, though obviously that’s pretty bad. Secondly, I’m not a presidential historian, so my knowledge of some presidents is pretty limited. I welcome input on events I may have forgotten or never learned about in the first place. Lastly, this list is obviously subjective, based on my own moral judgment. As such, it’s weighted against things I find truly immoral, which usually involve the government killing or imprisoning people. Again, though, I welcome disagreement.
And now, the list: Continue reading »
“We’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we’ve never even met?”—David Foster Wallace
The hagiography around David Foster Wallace—one I’ve devoutly consumed and even added to—has grown to somewhat absurd proportions in the four years since his death. It is thus possible to view D.T. Max’s new biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, as yet another contribution to the cult of DFW; this, however, would miss the substance of Max’s book. Every Love Story… actually goes to great lengths to debunk many of the myths that have grown around Wallace since his death. And although Max is clearly sympathetic towards Wallace, the book doesn’t shy away from being honest about him.
One of the ways Max establishes credibility in this regard is by making clear how unreliable a source Wallace himself is. Indeed, Wallace told a remarkable number of lies about himself: lies about whether or not he had read Thomas Pynchon, lies about who he’d slept with, lies to editors about where he’d been published, lies to friends about graduate school applications, lies to women and family members and interviewers, often about things that hardly seem worth lying over. On some level, this is consistent with the popular image of Wallace as someone intensely afraid of revealing himself to people. But it is frankly troubling to read about how dodgy, immature, and narcissistic he could be at times, and Max doesn’t shy away from these unflattering details. Continue reading »
Sarah: I guess I have a reputation for being good at puzzles. I don’t know how I got it…
Chet: Because you brag about it.
“Sam, you’re not Jesus carrying the cross.” —Frank
The Challenge is back, after a week off for MTV to celebrate Halloween. The layoff seemed to have reset the narrative—whereas I just declared Alton to be this season’s villain, this week’s episode brought a new one into focus: Frank.
Frank was the one who started fighting with Alton in the last episode, and this week he was pulling apart his own team. The problems started in the challenge: Logged Out was kind of a mini-final, consisting of checkpoints and a puzzle. The teams climbed a mountain and passed three checkpoints. The first showed the puzzle’s solution, the second contained the puzzle pieces, and the third was where the solution had to be reassembled. Continue reading »
You seriously want to vote for one of these guys?
It’s time for my biennial plea for you to abstain from voting. I’ve got my work cut out for me: As election season (mercifully) draws to an end, we’ve reached the time of year when everyone and their mother takes time to urge you to vote, no matter who you vote for, as if the mere act of casting a vote is somehow worthwhile.
What goes conspicuously unmentioned in all these pleas to vote is the simple fact that your vote is extremely unlikely to make a difference. This is nothing but a statement of mathematical fact: The odds of an election in which millions of votes are cast being decided by one vote* are essentially zero. Even in smaller, more local races, or elections that are extremely close, the odds of your vote being decisive are still incredibly small. The only elections that have been decided by one vote were races in which fewer than 10,000 votes were cast. Continue reading »