“Wait, are you telling me you actually sent that? For God’s sake, woman—it was a joke!” – a hysterical Arthur Zimmermann to his secretary Gretchen, after learning that she had just sent a real telegram on its way to Mexico proposing an allied attack on the United States at the height of World War I.
Gretchen Ziegler certainly was a sweetheart. Whatever else may have been uttered about her in the years that would follow that historic morning, she really was an absolute peach. In an attempt to contribute to the war effort, the shapely university student worked part-time for Foreign Secretary of the German Empire Arthur Zimmermann, who was a friend of her father. It was widely agreed that her charming demeanor, calm blue eyes, and silky voice made her especially suited to sit at the desk of so busy and esteemed a man as Zimmermann. And indeed, naïve though she was, Gretchen was not without intelligence, having earned excellent marks in school. Thus it came almost as a complete surprise when, on the morning of January 19, she committed a grave error that would severely alter the course of modern history.
“Wow, talk about déjà vu! Although I still don’t know why you’re not armed, or how you guys talked me into doing this.” – Bernhard “Bernie” Goetz, after rapidly shooting four unarmed black men in a game of paintball several hours after escaping the scene of his subway shootings.
Bernie, Jamal, Deion, Marcus, and Raymond—or the “Jive Five”, as they were known in college—were virtually inseparable. In fact, Bernie’s famous (or perhaps infamous) adventure on the no. 57 subway earlier that day (read it–this whole thing will make a lot more sense if you do) marked the first time in a week that the crew had been separated for more than a few minutes during the day. They all worked together at a bread bakery they had opened just after graduating, a popular local joint by the name of “Baggoetz”, and when a bank statement detailing an unsettled loan repayment was discovered in the back office, they were left with no choice but to send one person out in the middle of the day. Bernie volunteered, telling his best friends only half-jokingly “You know they’ll go easy on a white guy!” He hurriedly finished handing out orders to the long line of customers, apologizing for the delays. He even offered an extra loaf of sourdough to a black man seated in the corner, saying “You look like you could use some bread…here’s another.” Continue reading
One year: It was the longest The Beatles ever went between record releases. It was the amount of time Elaine was banned from the Soup Nazi’s shop. According to the Synoptic Gospels, it was approximately the length of Jesus’ ministry. Most famously, it is the length of time it takes Earth to revolve around the sun. And now it is how long No Pun Intended has been…doing whatever it is we do here.
Yes, it was one year ago today that NPI published its initial post (as well as three others). Back then Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, and Dennis Hopper were all alive. Back then Sarah Palin was still the Governor of Alaska, David Souter was still on the Supreme Court, and Conan O’Brien was the host of The Tonight Show. Back then, Lost was still on TV, Titanic was still the highest-grossing film in American history, and Lady Gaga had only had two #1 singles. Then NPI came along and all that changed. (Of course, correlation doesn’t always mean causation.)
We declared then that our goal was “to be topical, relevant, entertaining, and, logically following from these three, interesting.” Hopefully we have succeeded more often than we have failed.
We’ve covered everything from deep dish pizza to the evolution of TV to Mariano Rivera, from The Sopranos to the Old Testament to the Food Network, from the 1999 NLCS to apologism to David Foster Wallace. We’ve ranked the Bill of Rights, the work of Bob Dylan, and everything in history. Oh, and we had some French guy discussing sports rules.
This all may seem self-congratulatory (and it is), but it’s all by way of a thank you to those have read us: A blog is only worth writing if you feel that someone is reading, and we here at NPI appreciate all our readers. It’s only with the help and encouragement of those who read us that NPI has lasted longer than Joe DiMaggio’s marriage to Marilyn Monroe, the entire series of Freaks and Geeks, and the French Revolution’s Legislative Assembly.
In all that time, here are a few of our favorite posts: Continue reading
The night the first Survivor finale aired in the summer of 2000 is oddly salient in my memory. My parents were on vacation, so my cousin was staying with us, and I remember having to go with her to drive my brother to a friend’s house quickly before the finale started–except that I was kind of ashamed of falling prey to this reality TV thing, so I never mentioned it, and we had trouble finding the house on a secluded street, and I was panicking in the back seat because I wanted Rudy to win so badly, and we ended up getting home about two minutes after the episode started. Even today, when I pass that secluded street, I think immediately of that night.
Like I said, oddly salient.
Although the Survivor finale that night didn’t give me the result I wanted, it certainly did deliver. It gave us arguably the landmark moment in reality television and a winner who, while unpopular with many, was probably the best the show could have had for its long-term health.*
*The polarity of opinions on Richard Hatch and how he played the game remains an issue 20 seasons into the game. Does controlling the game and risking the alienation of others constitute playing it the best? Or is it better to lay low, ride coattails, and hope your opponent is voted against? It’s a subjective stance, and it’s what makes the finale so interesting time after time.
“I’m not fully in control of this game right now; me and Parvati are equally in control, and that makes me worried.” –Russell
“He’s getting outplayed by me AND DANIELLE at this point.” –Parvati on Russell
“Russell is insane.” –Danielle
Bravo, Survivor. You gave us an episode that matched this season’s earlier showdown between Boston Rob and Russell at a far more significant and usually predictable part of the season. And somehow, through two more immunity challenges that neither won, through another hunt for a hidden idol that neither found, and through two more tribals, Rupert and Colby are still standing.*
*This is especially astonishing in Colby’s case, considering he wasn’t even a member of the top alliance within the Heroes’ camp. I remember thinking how strange it was he even made it to the merge, and now he’s in the final six!
The episode started with the fallout from Candice’s betrayal of the Heroes in voting out Amanda last week. That left the Heroes down to two remaining members, Rupert and Colby, with the former describing Candice as “weak, pathetic, self-centered, and manipulative” before saying in almost Coach-speak, “Colby and I are on a stranded ship. There are no other heroes.”
Rupert then decided to go off on Russell at breakfast, calling him a “disgusting” human being who cared only for himself. Russell naturally didn’t back down, and the two digressed into a much-beeped argument that didn’t really go anywhere.*
*This episode had about as much cursing as any I can remember in the show’s history.
With news that Fox is close to greenlighting a pilot that would team Will Arnett up with former Arrested Development co-creator and executive producer Mitch Hurwitz (as well as AD co-executive producer Jim Vallely, who wrote the scripts for some great episodes, including “Pier Pressure,” “Righteous Brothers,” and “S.O.B.s”), the big (and sometimes insularly arrogant) Arrested Development fans here at NPI couldn’t help but get a bit excited. After all, the news that Arnett will be playing “a rich Beverly Hills jackass” sounds more than a little Gob Bluth-esque.
At the same time, we’d probably be better off to cool our expectations. The post-Arrested Development career of Will Arnett has been filled with plenty of flops (The Brothers Solomon, Let’s Go to Prison) and only a few mild successes (his guest appearance on Parks & Recreation, Blades of Glory). Even his previous reunion with Hurwitz, the animated series Sit Down, Shut Up (which included fellow AD alums Jason Bateman and Henry Winkler) was a mild disaster, lasting only 13 episodes. Continue reading
In case you missed Part I of our analysis of the decade’s best nonfiction, you can check it out here.
9/11, Pirates and Emperors, Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, et. al. – Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky has always been prolific in his political writings, but the aftermath of 9/11 saw an increase in the relevance of his criticisms of American foreign policy. As an unabashed radical and critic of American interventionism, Chomsky’s writings express points of view that are virtually unrepresented in the mainstream discourse. For those who agree and those who disagree, Chomsky represents important challenges to American foreign policy that need to be addressed, given the country’s ongoing role in violent global affairs.
Moneyball - Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis is arguably the best nonfiction writer of the Aughts, and Moneyball is one of the best nonfiction books of the Aughts. Lewis made Billy Beane and sabermetrics (i.e. baseball statistical analysis) into a superstar and super-method. No other book has had as much effect on the general management of a sport than Moneyball has had on baseball. OPS shifted from undervalued to properly or even overvalued (and, you know what’s next) and teams continued to hire Art Howe (well, that wasn’t a good thing). More than simply chronicling Beane’s (general) managerial philosophy, Lewis extracted meaningful themes from it such as capitalism’s push for efficiency as reflected in baseball and overcoming the deleterious effects of dogmatic insiders.
Michael Pollan, acclaimed author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food (which I reviewed), offers a thought-provoking critique of TV food culture in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine. There are many different components to Pollan’s argument (I wouldn’t be surprised if a book on the subject is forthcoming) but the gist of it is that the Food Network and TV food programs generally encourage a culture of eating and spectating, as opposed to actually cooking at home, and that this cultural shift is—on the whole—harmful. I will argue that TV food programs are not only valuable as a form of diversionary entertainment but also that they have the potential to be inspirational.
Let me first present Pollan’s own words:
“We learn things watching these cooking competitions, but they’re not things about how to cook. There are no recipes to follow; the contests fly by too much too fast for viewers to take in any practical tips; and the kind of cooking practices in prime time is far more spectacular than anything you would ever try at home. No, for anyone hoping to pick up a few dinnertime tips, the implicit message of today’s prime-time cooking shows is, Don’t try this at home. If you really want to eat this way, go to a restaurant. Or as a chef friend put it when I asked him if he thought I could learn anything about cooking by watching the Food Network, ‘How much could you learn about playing basketball by watching the NBA?’”