Archive for June, 2010

Monday Medley

What we read while busting out our old vuvuzelas….

  • Amid the myriad things to love about this–I mean, the puns alone are worth it–I think my favorite is the idea of a story being attributed to Craig Ehlo.
  • We tried icing Tim, but it turns out he kinda likes Smirnoff Ice. Totally ruins it for everyone involved.
  • Feels like it’s been some time since we linked to some fiction. Here’s Loretta Lopez. She’s a Mexican high schooler. It’s good.

Simpsons Classics: 22 Short Films about Springfield

“The deepest problems of modern life flow from the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his existence against the sovereign powers of society, against the weight of the historical heritage and the external culture and technique of life. This antagonism represents the most modern form of the conflict which primitive man must carry on with nature for his own bodily existence.”

–Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life”

“Everybody in town’s got their story to tell.”

“There’s just not enough time to hear them all.”

Milhouse Van Houten and Bart Simpson, “22 Short Films about Springfield”

Viewed in and of itself, “22 Short Films about Springfield” isn’t the funniest episode of The Simpsons, or its most character-driven, and it certainly isn’t the best. In fact, it doesn’t even earn these titles among the five episodes that accompany it on Disc 4 of the Season Seven DVD.* It isn’t as funny as “Much Apu about Nothing,” and it lacks the frequently poignant characterization of “Summer of 4 Ft. 2” or “Homerpalooza.” But within the entirety of The Simpsons canon, “22 Short Films” stands out as a unique, and, I’d like to argue, uniquely necessary episode of the series. This is because “22 Short Films” is nothing short of a thoroughly Modernist foundation and legitimation of Springfield as a metropolitan setting.

*If I could only keep one of my DVDs, it would be this disc. It has “22 Short Films,” “Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish,’”  “Much Apu about Nothing,” “Homerpalooza,” and “Summer of 4 Ft. 2.” It is amazing.

By this, I mean that the 23 minutes of “22 Short Films about Springfield” help establish, develop, contextualize, and yes, animate the world around the series’ eponymous family. And the manner in which it does this is steeped in what appears to be a distinctly Modernist tradition. My texts for backing up this assertion will be the episode itself (obvs), the aforereferenced “Metropolis and the Mental Life” by Georg Simmel, and two landmark Modernist novels: Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz and definitive Modernist tome of them all, James Joyce’s Ulysses.

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Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat 2, The Grand Finale

“If I got to put some money on it, I’d say that me and Laurel are gonna walk away with $100,000 a piece. And I’ll show you guys, for the fourth time, why I am the king of sting.…I’m gonna win another one.” —Kenny

“Carley’s feet are starting to slip out, so I literally stick my head right between her butt cheeks and start pushing her up this mountain to the finish. Like I said: push, pull, carry—whatever it takes.” —Landon

So, Landon is clearly the closest thing Fresh Meat II had to a superhero. The main storyline of this Challenge was, of course, “Wes vs. Kenny,” and the biggest surprise was the dominance of Laurel; in the end, though, the most impressive performer was, once again, Landon. Just two weeks after willing a barely-conscious Carley through one of the toughest Exiles of the game, Landon basically did the same thing in the final challenge. This time Carley never lost consciousness, but she was essentially dead weight for most of the course, and yet she and Landon led from start to finish.

Of course, Kenny’s statement from early in the episode was right: If you were betting on the final challenge, the smart money would have been on Kenny and Laurel. Not only had Kenny and Laurel dominated the entire Challenge, but they were the team best suited for an MTV-designed final challenge, in which you are only as strong as your weakest link.* Since Laurel was by far the strongest female competitor—and was arguably better than Kenny throughout the Challenge—that pair seemed destined to take the crown. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while taking it easy with our Irish Lit baseball puns…

Joba Revisited

A fist pump does not a setup man make

A year ago, Tim and I finished up a Symposium on whether Joba Chamberlain belonged in the Yankee bullpen (what Tim thought) or in the starting rotation (what I thought). Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it looks like Tim was right. Chamberlain struggled mightily down the stretch last season—in August and September he was 2-4 with a 7.51 ERA—and he has been in the bullpen since Opening Day 2010. Not only that, but he’s been pretty good in that role. Through his first 17 appearances his ERA was 2.16—over two and a half runs lower than his ERA last season. Since then he’s had three bad appearances that have swollen his numbers, but overall Joba has held opponents scoreless in 19 of 25 appearances in 2010.

Having Said That, I’m still not sure I lost the argument. For one, Tim’s central point—that the 2009 Yankees needed Joba more in the bullpen than they did in the rotation—didn’t really pan out. To quote Tim: “Please note that the entirety of the Joba Debate has been framed under the assumption that Hughes and Wang will be, at the least, serviceable sub-5.00 ERA starters. If Hughes doesn’t ultimately cut it or Wang doesn’t make the expected comeback, the debate is largely moot.” Of course, Wang didn’t make the expected comeback, Hughes didn’t “cut it” as a starter, and Joba didn’t move to the bullpen… and 2009 still worked out pretty well for the Yankees. Continue reading

A Disappointing Bee?

So, I know I said that the Spelling Bee never disappoints, but I may have to correct myself. Last night’s spelling bee finals were kind of disappointing, and not just because my pick, Laura Newcombe, was eliminated on a word Dr. Bailey couldn’t even pronounce right. No, there were three things that kept the Bee from being as great as it usually is: Continue reading

A Viewer’s Guide to Tonight’s Spelling Bee Finals

It’s been over a year since I last sang the praises of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but Spelling Bee Day 2010 has finally arrived. This afternoon’s semifinal rounds did not disappoint. It had controversy, surprises, and a dramatic Round 6 that eliminated nine of 13 contestants before being cut short for time (and, presumably, because the Bee wanted to save some contestants for tonight’s Finals on ABC).

The semifinals were particularly brutal for those who finished well in last year’s Bee—the presumptive favorites for 2010. Tim Ruiter, who finished tied for second last year, lost on his first word of the day: fustanella. Also losing in the semis were Esther Park (who finished tied for 17th last year), Bradon Whitehead (37th), Anjithaa Radakrishnan (12th), Nicolas Rushlow (17th), Connor Aberle (17th), Sukanya Roy (12th), and Neetu Chandak (8th), who was actually eliminated twice, after being reinstated after the first one. Continue reading

In Praise of Jorge Posada

Jorge Posada returned to the Yankee lineup Wednesday night after over two weeks on the DL. If you don’t actively follow the Yankees, though, you may not have even realized he was gone. Posada is not the kind of marquee player whose injury would be national news.

Even though the last few weeks haven’t been the best for the Yankees, it’s not really like the Yankees have missed Posada so much—Francisco Cervelli’s surprising performance (he’s put up a .383 OBP and a stunning 1.442 OPS with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, albeit in an extremely small sample) has made Posada’s absence more palatable. Even before Posada’s injury, there was talk that he should become the team’s full-time DH to make room for Cervelli.

This isn’t really new. Being underappreciated seems to be Posada’s destiny. The most anonymous of the Core Four has flown under the radar throughout his career.

If you live in the New York area, have ever watched the YES Network, or picked up Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago, then you’re already familiar with the term “The Core Four.” This is how we insufferable Yankee fans refer to the quartet of teammates—Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada—that have been with the team since the beginning of the Yankee Dynasty in 1996. All four players made their MLB debut with the Yankees in 1995 and would go on to play major roles in the Yankee championships of the late ’90s, 2000, and then again last season. When critics point out (fairly) that the Yankees can sign free agents and assemble a roster of All-Stars seemingly at will thanks to their bottomless pockets, fans point to the Core Four as the four examples of homegrown talent that the Yankees didn’t have to “buy.” Earlier this season Jeter, Rivera, and Posada became the first trio of teammates in any major professional sport to play together for 16 consecutive seasons—a pretty remarkable fact in the era of free agency, even for the Yankees. Pettitte would have joined them, if not for a three-year stint with the Houston Astros from 2004-2006 that Yankee fans conveniently ignore in their memory. Continue reading

On Armando Galarraga, Brian Cushing, and Revising History

“Revisionism is not just one point of view; most broadly, it is the readiness to change your views. Historical interpretation is a work of the imagination, and the best history is bound to be revisionist.”

–Robert V. Daniels

What’s so bad about revising history?

It’s a question I first thought about a few weeks ago when the Associated Press football writers re-awarded Brian Cushing the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year a second time–even after Cushing was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. “Cushing won the award in January, and I don’t feel like we should revise history,” Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said. “I am concerned about the precedent.”

This is how a lot of AP voters felt; they were more worried about setting a precedent of historical revisionism than about giving out the award properly. They couldn’t change the fact that Cushing won the award initially, and they feared all the doors such a decision would open for future changes.

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Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat 2, Week 9 Power Rankings

“As of right now I ain’t really feeling how she’s acting towards you. It’s kind of whack to be honest…I’ve never seen a four-year-old on this show before.” —TJ Lavin


“Poor Jillian! I feel so bad pushing her down to the ground. I don’t want to do this!” —Laurel

Wow, so TJ Lavin really doesn’t like Evelyn. After calling her out for throwing a challenge back in The Ruins, Lavin called Evelyn a four-year-old last night for the tantrum she threw after losing the Exile. Not since Jim Joyce has a supposedly impartial body thrown himself so directly into a sporting event.

Not that Evelyn didn’t deserve it. After Landon managed to pull off the miraculous win by leading a barely lucid Carley across the finish line in the five extra minutes his team had at the end of last week, Evelyn went berserk. She started crying, throwing rocks, and blaming her partner Luke for the loss.* She made a German spectacle of herself, and it was pretty pathetic. Or, as TJ so eloquently put it, “kind of whack.” Continue reading

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