Archive for November, 2009

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving doesn’t quite make the Top 173 Things in World History, largely because I find the Disneyfied idyll of the First Thanksgiving a little dubious.

But, if I were making a list of the Top Holidays in World History, well, it’s tough to put much ahead of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has a few flaws—I, for one, prefer my holidays to be two syllables or less, thank you*—but they are outnumbered by its two great strengths: food and football. In this way, Thanksgiving is a pretty masculine holiday. We watch the Lions get crushed, we eat a big dinner at like 4 in the afternoon, we root like hell against America’s Team—stopping at halftime for dessert—and then we watch another football game at night.

*At least we don’t speak Spanish, in which case we’d be wishing you a Happy “Día de Acción de Gracias.”

Days don’t get much better than that, and I don’t even like turkey.*

*It’s a long story.**

**Actually, it’s not. I don’t like turkey. That’s the story. Deal with it.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for Thanksgiving—for a holiday where I give nothing and get everything, for a holiday that unabashedly embraces masculinity, for a holiday so good that the Canadians decided to start celebrating it, too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Seven Review

In case we haven’t made it clear yet, we’re pretty big fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm here at NPI, and we were rather excited for Season Seven. Now that Season Seven has concluded, though, it’s worthwhile to go back and compare our expectations to what we actually got.

Back when F.P., Josh and I went over our expectations for this season, I mentioned that I thought Larry’s relationship with the Blacks would be the main storyline of this season, with a potential Larry/Loretta/Cheryl love triangle developing; the Seinfeld reunion, I said, would be more of a secondary plotline. Well, I was right that the Seinfeld reunion was not the primary story: the show was only central to three episodes, and incidental to two others. But I was way off on the Blacks. Loretta and her family were sent packing in the second episode of the season, “Vehicular Fellatio.”

I can’t say I was upset by this development. I thought there was a lot of potential in the Larry/Loretta pairing, but, as Josh and F.P. each pointed out, there was also the tendency to do trite or obvious jokes with them. Season Six and the first two episodes of this season gave Larry plenty of opportunity to flesh out his dynamic with the Black family. And while the first two episodes were very strong—particularly the second episode (“Do you know what it’s like to have cancer?” “No, but I know what it’s like to be with someone who has cancer.”)—I never really missed Loretta or Auntie Rae during the rest of the season. Continue reading

Unabated to the QB, Week 11: In Defense of Ricky Williams

Over at Deadspin, Will Leitch recently made a list of people who had had a particularly bad decade, or as Leitch put it, “reputations that were devastated by the last 10 years.” This list included Ricky Williams.

That list no longer has any credibility.

Sure, when Ricky Williams graduated from Texas in 1998, he was college football’s all-time leading rusher—a mark that would be passed a year later by Ron Dayne, who really deserves to be on this list but isn’t. Williams entered the NFL with high expectations, generally because Mike Ditka moronically traded the entire draft and his professional dignity to land Williams in New Orleans. Although Williams hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations, he’s still been one of the best running backs of the decade; on Thursday night, he surpassed 7,500 rushing yards since 2000, which isn’t half-bad for someone who had an “awful decade.” Ron Dayne would certainly jump at the opportunity to double his career yardage.

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Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #55: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

This song is a joke. Not in a bad way. The whole song hinges on one joke, and a pretty basic one at that, which is repeated again and again throughout each verse. The crux of the song, if you couldn’t figure out Dylan’s usual subtlety, is a pun on the word “stoned.” Get it? “Everybody must get stoned”? It’s a drug reference!

Dylan’s sense of humor often gets overlooked, but this is probably his most famous joke. It’s also his most hokey. But if you listen to the song enough, you stop hearing the pun.

I’d be lying if I said that I’m favoring this song because it’s the lead track on Blonde on Blonde; if this song were on Bringing it all Back Home, or even Highway 61 Revisited, I’d probably dismiss it as almost as one note as “Nashville Skyline Rag.” But placed where it is, it ends up setting the tone for Dylan’s best album. As a result, I’ve listened to it more than enough times to get beyond the joke. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while trying to get into Justin Bieber’s Twitter account….

Zeitoun and the Art of the Soft Sell

Note to all potential readers of Zeitoun: It is located in the Biography section at Barnes & Noble, not, as one who has read Dave Eggers’ other more-or-less-based-on-real-life-if-slightly-fictionalized works might suspect, in the Fiction/Literature section. Furthermore, remember that, in the Biography section, it is alphabetized by subject and not author; this is because people don’t really care who writes a biography.

This is the weird circumstance of Zeitoun, a biography about a man—and more accurately, a family—who is much less famous than the biographer. Eggers is one of a handful of writers universally included in any conversation about the “Voice of the Generation”—consideration earned largely off of his almost-living-up-to-the-title A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

Now, if you know anything about “VotG” discussion, you know that authors don’t stumble their way into such territory by keeping things simple and straightforward and understated. You have to do something pretty out-there, and you have to do it really, really well. That’s what Eggers pulled off in A Heartbreaking  Work, a memoir focused on how the deaths of the author’s parents and his subsequent raising of his much younger brother. It is a very personal book—obvs—detailing not only Eggers’ guilt-inducing desire to avoid walking through the room containing his dying mother, but also more mundane things like his unabashed appreciation for Journey* and his own masturbatory habits.**

*It was written in 2000, well before “Don’t Stop Believin’” was aired on Laguna Beach and became cool to like again. How do I know this? Because you couldn’t get away with writing something like “I worry about exposing him to bands like Journey, the appreciation of which will surely bring him nothing but the opprobrium of his peers” today.

**They were T.M.I. in his book; they’d be beyond that in this review.

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The Stupid Stupak Amendment

Hey, did you guys know there was a health care bill being considered?

Here at NPI, we’ve only touched on this issue in passing. We don’t want to pretend we know more than we do about something as important as this.

With that said, there seems to be an underlying hypocrisy in the recent discussion of the Stupak Amendment. This amendment was added onto the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month, and it essentially prevents any federally funded or subsidized health insurance plan from covering abortions. This amendment was important in getting 64 of the more moderate Democrats in the House to vote for the bill. On the other hand, many others view the Stupak Amendment as catastrophic, and some Democratic Senators are hoping to have the amendment stripped. Continue reading