Archive for July, 2010

Inception: Dreaming Is What’s Left Of Psychedelia…

“The trick is to combine your waking rational abilities with the infinite possibility of dreams…if you do that, you can do anything.” —-Waking Life

Here is what you do if you have a passing interest in neuroscience, psychology, or physics but are too lazy to take science classes in college: make movies. In the last decade or so, some of the most successful movies from nearly every genre—from thrillers like Memento to sci-fi/action movies like The Matrix to art house movies like Waking Life—involve quirks of the mind: alternate realities, psychological disorders, and imaginary characters.

Inception, the latest film from Christopher Nolan (director of the aforementioned Memento as well as The Dark Knight, which means we at NPI are predisposed to like him), tackles dreaming, an area so loaded with psychological and epistemological ramifications that the movie feels ready to burst at the seams. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, a thief who enters peoples’ dreams to steal their ideas. This process, known as “extraction,” involves exploiting projections of a dreamers’ subconscious to reveal secrets. Continue reading

Got a Secret? About Last Night’s “Pretty Little Liars”

You weren’t kidding when you approvingly linked to a review of Pretty Little Liars a few Monday Medleys ago, were you? Trust me. We never use Monday Medley to kid.

Seriously, though, why Pretty Little Liars? Because it’s summer, because Degrassi just isn’t fun anymore, because it’s accurately billed as Gossip Girl meets I Know What You Did Last Summer

Sans Jennifer Love Hewitt: Sigh…

If it’s so great, what took so long? Well, we didn’t want another FlashForward on our hands, am I right? Also, I didn’t see the first three episodes.

Then how are you qualified to do this? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s pretty gratuitous use of flashback in PLL.

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Monday Medley

What we read while being snookered by Fox News…

Mad Men Returns

In case you haven’t heard, the fourth season of AMC’s Mad Men premieres tonight at 10 PM. But you’ve probably heard. As I mentioned last year, Mad Men is quite the buzzworthy show, which means promotional material and spoilers are somewhat hard to avoid.

Luckily, I have been able to stay somewhat sheltered from the released information about this season—I prefer to enter new seasons with no preconceptions. This is particularly exciting in the wake of last season’s Mad Men finale, which set up a totally new realm for the characters to inhabit.

Season Three ended with almost all of the main characters—Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Peggy Olsen, Pete Campbell, etc.—leaving Sterling Cooper to start a new agency. Meanwhile, Betty was flying off to Nevada to marry Henry Francis. In other words, there are a lot of things to be explored as the new season picks up.

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Shut Up Michael Jordan (And Magic Johnson, And Probably Larry Bird Eventually)

Shut up, Michael Jordan. Nobody should be listening to you. You were an excellent basketball player—probably the best ever—but you are an arrogant, selfish idiot. We all know that by now.

So nobody should care that you said you would never have called Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and asked them to join you on the same team: “There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team.’” Oh, really? “With hindsight,” you wouldn’t make drastic changes to what pretty much everyone agrees was the greatest professional basketball career of all time? Shocking.

What about without hindsight? What about when you were 25, like LeBron James is now, and you, like LeBron James, had never won an NBA title? Continue reading

MLB Midseason Bonanza: The National League

So John S was all like, “When are you gonna criticize your MLB predictions? You’re just gonna hang me out to dry?” And I came back with, “You call that a criticism? I call that a hearty pat on the back you did.” To which John replied, “Yeah, well, you got a lot more wrong than I did.”*

*Dramatization. May not have happened.

Alas, my re-evaluation of my pre-season predictions in the National League won’t be headlined by What I Got Right so much as What I Got Wrong, and Often Very Wrong. That being said, I totally got three of the eventual playoff teams from the NL, and I’m sticking to that.

NL WEST

What I Got Completely Wrong

I had the Padres winning 64 games all season; they will surpass that total if they go 11-60 the rest of the season. I specifically mocked the fact that Jon Garland was San Diego’s Opening Day starter. Garland is 9-6 with a 3.45 ERA, and the Padres have the best ERA in the Major Leagues. Mat Latos was a legitimate Cy Young candidate before he failed to sneeze the other day. Their bullpen, boasting former Mets Mike Adams and Heath Bell, is phenomenal.

But, the Padres aren’t making the playoffs. Bank on it.

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Open Letter to Fans from Raptors Majority Owner

Dear Toronto and All Toronto Raptors Fans, Regardless of Your Present Location;

As you may have heard, our former “hero” Chris Bosh went to Miami after a prolonged, egotistical campaign played out mainly through his let’s-be-honest boring Twitter account.

I want you to know that I, like you, am not in any way devastated by this decision. In fact, I’m not even mad. I’m pretty cool with how it all went down.

I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE TORONTO RAPTORS WILL NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS WITHOUT CHRIS, JUST AS WE DIDN’T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS IN FIVE OF THE SEVEN SEASONS WITH CHRIS!

Furthermore, I’m very confident that our newest first-round pick, Ed Davis, can fill Chris’s shoes, since, like Chris, Ed was unable to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament.

Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day.

SERIOUSLY!

Your owner,

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Ltd.

Monday Medley

What we read while taking advantage of the estate tax loophole…
  • We can think of nothing better than spending a 12-hour blind date with Dostoevsky.
  • Get this: The colon is making a: Comeback!

MLB Midseason Bonanza: The AL

With the MLB All-Star Game come and gone, it’s time for John S and Tim to look back at their pre-season (well, more like 5 days into the season) predictions and see where they stand now. Here’s John S looking back on what he got right and what he got dead wrong.

AL West

What I Got Right

We should start in the AL West, where I made probably my best call in picking Texas to beat LA for the division title. As I expected, the Angels have taken a big step backwards—they are only three games above .500, and their run differential is -24. A lot of that is due to a rough patch the team hit shortly after the devastating injury to Kendry Morales, but a lot of it also has to do with a mediocre rotation. Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir, the two veterans of the staff, have turned in lousy seasons, and the team is 11th in the AL in runs allowed.

Meanwhile, Texas has been even better than I anticipated. They have the biggest divisional lead of any first place team in the majors, and their run differential is better than every non-AL East team in baseball. And the only glaring weakness of the Rangers—the lack of a real ace—was addressed by trading a package centered on Justin Smoak for Cliff Lee. The Rangers won’t be able to resign Lee, but he makes them a legitimate pennant contender this year. Continue reading

Fresh Mediocrity: A Review of Pret A Manger

Pret A Manger (“Pret”) is a London-based sandwich retail chain that has been expanding in the US. There are now 24 outlets in New York and one in Washington, DC. Despite encountering many Pret outlets in England, it was the latter outlet that gave me my first experience eating one of their celebrated fresh sandwiches.

“Pret A Manger” is French for ready-to-eat. You need not have an understanding of French, though, to know that their sandwiches are made fresh. They are all lined up in paperboard containers (used instead of plastic to emphasize the freshness!) on refrigerated shelves. You should be wary about not having a sandwich decision in mind before approaching the shelf, because if you stand dormant in front of a shelf for more than two or three seconds, a Pret employee will almost certainly cut in front of you to load on some more of the fresh sandwiches. They are, of course, loaded in the front rather than the back so every customer gets the freshest sandwich available.*

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