Archive for May, 2010

Monday Medley

What we read while getting caught watching the paint dry…

The Speidi Breakup

Sometimes something can seem both inevitable and impossible. Like the first successful moon landing, or the election of America’s first black president, thus is the feeling when news broke yesterday that Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag had broken up.

On the one hand, anyone who watched The Hills or did merely a cursory overview of tabloid coverage of this relationship had to know just how dysfunctional it was. Spencer tore Heidi away from her best friend, from her sister, from her parents, from her career, etc. Basically, describing Spencer as “controlling” is a drastic understatement.

And yet the two seemed to have a symbiotic hold on each other. Whereas the annoying habit of using portmanteau names to refer to celebrity relationships—Brangelina, Bennifer, etc.—is usually just another way that modern culture shits on the English language, with Speidi it seemed like an appropriate illustration of just how inseparable they were in the public eye. Neither of them would have been significantly famous without the other. Spencer was notorious for his manipulative, God-like hold over his wife, and Heidi was infamous for her docile acceptance of what seemingly everyone else in the world recognized as nefarious manipulation by her husband. Continue reading

In Defense of Rand Paul (Kind Of)

It’s not often that a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky becomes a national political figure, but Rand Paul has been in the news a lot lately. First, it was for his surprising and convincing (and surprisingly convincing) win in the Republican primary for a Kentucky Senate seat two weeks ago, and then it was for his controversial statements about the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Basically, what Paul said about the Civil Rights Act, first on NPR and then on The Rachel Maddow Show, was that he did not support the Act’s regulation of private business, even though he stands behind the spirit of the bill and supports all the provisions of it that desegregate public institutions and repeal Jim Crow laws. Basically, there are 10 Titles of the Civil Rights Act, and Paul said he didn’t support Title II.

Now, I don’t agree with Paul’s view at all, but it’s not surprising or offensive to me. In fact, it’s perfectly consistent with Paul’s libertarian beliefs: Libertarians do not want the federal government to interfere with private business, and federally mandated desegregation of private businesses constitutes a regulation. Even though I disagree, I initially admired Paul’s intellectual consistency—unfortunately since the media hubbub about his comments, Paul has backed away from that intellectual fidelity. It’s also important to note that Paul did not say he wanted to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or even that he would have voted against the whole Act had he been in Congress at the time—he only said he had legitimate problems with one aspect of the law. Continue reading

A Tribute to Phil Hartman

It was 12 years ago today that Phil Hartman was killed. Even when I was only 11, I recognized the comic genius of Phil Hartman. I remember Hartman as the voice of several of my favorite Simpsons characters, the star of one of my favorite shows growing up in Newsradio, one of the first actors I loved on Saturday Night Live, and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s neighborly nemesis (the non-Sinbad one) in Jingle All the Way.

Hartman possessed one of the finest voices I’ve ever heard–one that was simultaneously distinct and versatile. Sometimes, unfunny things became funny simply because Phil Hartman knew how to say them.

In memory of Hartman, here’s some of his best clips:

McClure’s Comeback

Continue reading

Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat 2, Week 8 Power Rankings

“Evelyn is fuming, but, you know, every time Evelyn loses a challenge, an angel gets his wings.” —Ryan


“How do you know my name?” —Carley

I hate you, MTV. I hate you with a fiery passion strong enough to wean America off of foreign oil.

At least once a season, it seems, MTV annoyingly cuts to the dreaded “To Be Continued” screen before the winner of the elimination is shown. Usually, though, the cut comes at the beginning of the elimination round, before the suspense has built. Last night, though, the cut came after Evelyn and Luke had already finished their Exile course, but since Landon and Carley had completed the reward puzzle, they could finish up to five minutes after Luke and Ev and still win.

The Exile itself was the most exciting one yet. It was more or less the same as it was when Landon and Carley beat CJ and Sydney, but with two important twists. First, there were 50 pounds added to the amount of weight each team had to carry. Even more intriguing, though, was that this time it was at night…in the dark. So neither team could see where they were going, making it even harder to keep the buckets of weight from swinging. Continue reading

The Sports Revolution: And TWO!

Let me set the scene for you: You are playing the game of basketball, and you drive to the basket, and you are fouled on a layup attempt that you miss. You receive two free throws. The next play, the same thing occurs, except that you make the layup. You receive one free throw.

Let me reset the scene for you: Playing the game of basketball, yadda yadda, miss layup + foul = two free throws, made layup + foul = two free throws.

Wait, what?

Yes, mon ami, Pierre returns and with a vengeance. The NBA shall draw my unique ire over the course of the next several weeks, as I once again spew vitriol at the odd presumptions of American sports rules, taking aim at its most athletic and aesthetic of sports, but one that is passing away before our very eyes.

Continue reading

In Defense of Jughandles

New Jersey is a state a lot of people like to make fun of. It is popularly stereotyped by its two famous television programs–The Sopranos and Jersey Shore*–and is home to all sorts of crazy quirks, from the law prohibiting us to pump our own gas to the pungent odor north of Exit 13 on the New Jersey Turnpike to the fact that we all live, better or worse, within a modest drive of a major highway. I’m generally okay with my home state being mischaracterized by those who live outside it; they just don’t “get” New Jersey.

*It should be noted that the stereotyping is carried out by people who don’t understand either show.

But it does bother me when New Jerseyans themselves don’t understand when their state gets something right. Enter: jughandles.

Let’s be clear from the start: Everyone hates jughandles–not just New Jerseyans. It’s that everyone else doesn’t deal with them on an everyday basis like we do. At the same time, jughandles are great. Anyone who doesn’t understand why jughandles are great ignores the basic constitution of New Jersey suburbs, which essentially boils down to a dense residential population that has to drive to reach commercial zones.

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Getting Lost: The End

It’s time for the final installment of “Getting Lost,” where John S takes you through all the questions, answers, themes, motifs, mysteries, ideas, propositions, and quandaries raised by last night’s series finale of Lost:

“What if a demon crept after thee into thy loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to thee: ‘This life, as thou livest it at present, and hast lived it, thou must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to thee again, and all in the same series and sequence-and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself. The eternal sand-glass of existence will ever be turned once more, and thou with it, thou speck of dust!’- Wouldst thou not throw thyself down and gnash thy teeth, and curse the demon that so spake? Or hast thou once experienced a tremendous moment in which thou wouldst answer him: ‘Thou art a God, and never did I hear anything so divine!’… The question with regard to all and everything: ‘Dost thou want this once more, and also for innumerable times?’ would lie as the heaviest burden upon thy activity! Or, how wouldst thou have to become favorably inclined to thyself and to life, so as to long for nothing more ardently than for this last eternal sanctioning and sealing?” —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

A lot will be and surely has already been said about the Lost finale, specifically the final scenes. People will say that the ending is a cop-out, that the ending is overtly religious, that ultimately the writers did provide a “the Island is the afterlife” or “the Sideways stories are purgatory” answer. They will say that there was not enough discussion of “the rules,” and that countless questions about mythology were not answered sufficiently. Some will say it was too slow; some will say that not enough characters got closure; some will say it was too sappy; some will say that it ruined the whole series. And someone somewhere will probably say that there wasn’t enough Libby.

It was basically preordained, in other words, that this episode would be controversial. But the question to keep in mind in judging it, though, is: Did the finale provide consistent and compelling closure for the series? Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while letting go…

  • Sure, it was cool of Mikhail Prokhorov to handpick a blogger to sit down with for one of his first American interviews. But, we can’t help but feel a little spurned. I mean, Tim loves the Nets!
  • Our favorite Canadian magazine’s June cover story explores the shifting ownership of hockey and asks if Canada can really claim the NHL as its own after the league has expanded into the American sunbelt. It’s an interesting read on how the differences between how Canadians and Americans view hockey stand for the country’s larger distinctions: “Americans, on the other hand, do not need to worry about something as abstruse as the dignity of hockey. They may not have hockey in their DNA, as advertisers keep telling us we do, but this gives them the enormous advantage of being able to assess hockey without their view being obscured by the claptrap of national identity that so confounds the Canadian perspective.”

This Is The End: Lost Finale Preview

Well, this is it. We’ve made it to the end: The final episode of Lost, appropriately titled “The End,” airs tonight at 9 PM. I’ve looked back at the series’ past, but now it’s time to look at where it stands now.

Who’s left on the Island? We’re down to a slim, manageable number of characters on the Island: We have Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Desmond, Locke 2.0, Ben, Miles, and Claire. Jacob may be around for some of it, but as he said in “What They Died For,” it won’t be much longer. Sayid, Jin, and Sun died in “The Candidate.” Widmore, Zoe, and (probably) Richard died in “What They Died For.” There may be some others from Widmore’s submarine still around, and some miscellaneous Others, but I don’t think we’ll be dealing much with them in tonight’s finale.

Where do they all stand? In a move I thought they’d save for the finale, Jack was all over Jacob’s job offer in “What They Died For,” going through the whole ritual of wine-drinking and light-seeing to become the Island’s protector. The rest of the core four are still wracked with grief over the deaths of their friends. Kate’s old goal of trying to find Claire has seemingly been replaced by trying to kill Locke 2.0. Sawyer, meanwhile, was blaming himself for killing Sayid, Jin, and Sun on the sub. Hurley was just glad he didn’t get stuck with Jacob’s job. Continue reading