Archive for November, 2010

A Tribute to Leslie Nielsen

One of the painful realizations of my adolescence was that I had my father’s sense of humor. A friend’s parent confirmed it for me when I was about 14, after I made an obvious play on words. I knew from that point on that, down the road, I would be unable to resist easy puns, constant references to hilarious television scenes, and fabricated ancestries for athletes with unusual names.

But if inheriting Dad’s sense of humor was the price for early access to some of his favorite comedies, well, it’s one I’d gladly pay again. Because let me tell you: There weren’t too many other fathers who didn’t balk when their seven-year-old son watched The Simpsons and made sure that by the time he was 11 or 12 had seen Airplane! and The Naked Gun and just about the entire Mel Brooks oeuvre.* Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while you were thankful for your favorite blog…

  • You knew someone was going to do it–that someone was gonna go all, “Hey, doesn’t the decade really end in 2010?” and put out another encompassing review of the Aughts, 2010 inclusive. That someone turned out to be Time, which is attempting to launch an annual “Timeframes Issue” with its glance back at the last 11 years. Of special note (IOHO, of course and taking into account that some stories are not online) is James Poniewozik’s shortie on news tickers.

Every Game Counts…Week 13

In my neverending quest to rail against the BCS, I am calculating week-by-week how many games this college football season really “count” (as in, influence the national title picture).

After 12 weeks, 110 of the 120 FBS teams cannot make the BCS championship (a refresher on my criteria), including, finally, Virginia Tech.

Now that we’re in the final full week of the regular season, we can see the math really cutting away at some teams that were alive last week. This is because TCU cannot finish with more than one loss, and either Alabama will finish as the best-ranked team with two losses, or Auburn will not lose two games. So, that gets rid of Virginia Tech, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. By the same logic, Michigan State, which is just marginally ahead of Alabama in the BCS, would almost certainly be passed by the Crimson Tide were it to knock off the No. 2 team in the country.

Here’s what needs to happen for the 10 remaining teams to make the title game:

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This Day in Revisionist History

November 24:

“Wait, you mean that wasn’t John F. Kennedy?”

–Jack Ruby, upon learning that he had been beaten to the punch by the man he had just fatally shot.

Jack Ruby had already been laying low for weeks when Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy in the head, and as a result had never heard the news of the President’s death. In later interviews he revealed that he had been hiding out in a log cabin in the northern part of Florida, where he mostly shot at squirrels for target practice. Of course, because he had opted to use a pistol, simulating a realistic assassination typically meant trying to walk right up to a squirrel and shoot it at point blank range, and as such Ruby does not recall actually harming any squirrels. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while changing our opinions on the morality of condoms…

  • Speaking of law, the New York Times ran a fascinating article that empirically establishes that Sandra Day O’Connor relied on her clerks to write opinions more than any other contemporary justice.

The War for Late Night: Smiling Politely Towards Disaster

Anyone who picks up Bill Carter’s new book about last January’s late night TV debacle—The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy—looking for a villain is destined to be disappointed. This is not for lack of effort. The book is impressively comprehensive about NBC’s decision to move Jay Leno from The Tonight Show to primetime and back again and the disaster that followed. Carter gives detailed histories of and various perspectives on all the major players involved—Leno, Conan, Jeff Zucker, David Letterman, Jeff Gaspin, etc.—but in the end nobody comes off as an evil monster responsible for the train wreck. Instead, we get a fascinating example of how a bunch of people all acting with the best intentions can lead to the worst possible outcome.

“If they’d come in and shot everybody—I mean, it would have been people murdered. But at least it would have been a two-day story. I mean, yes, NBC could not have handled it worse, from 2004 onward.” —Jay Leno Continue reading

Every Game Counts…Week 12

 

In my neverending quest to rail against the BCS, I am calculating week-by-week how many games this college football season really “count” (as in, influence the national title picture).

After 11 weeks, 106 of the 120 FBS teams cannot make the BCS championship (a refresher on my criteria), including Bizarro Heisman Trophy candidate Ricky Stanzi and Iowa. We can start breaking it down a little more now that we’re reducing the field.

Teams Who Can Afford a Loss:

These are teams that are undefeated in a BCS conference or who have one loss while having started the year in the Top 10 (and so can conceivably, like LSU in 2007, make the title game with two losses). I’d like to point out how lenient I’m being here. The way this season is going, Alabama and Ohio State are likely the only schools on this list that could make the title game with a loss. Furthermore, we’re getting to the point where we have to mathematically consider whether it is even conceivable for a team to make it with two losses (looking at you, Virginia Tech). At this point, I feel very confident saying Auburn is the only school on this list that can conceivably make the title game even after a loss in the final three weeks.

Auburn

Nebraska

Ohio State

Oregon

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The Drawing Board: Negotiating with Terrorists

The world is full of things we take for granted. I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but there are examples, trust me.

One example is that it’s wrong to negotiate with terrorists. We’ve all heard it before, whether it’s some politician on television, or a badass cop on a hit TV show, or maybe even a friend who’s somehow on television. Man, TV rules! But even though our government does negotiate with terrorists, we all like to pretend that we don’t, and that this is a good thing. There are several reasons we might do this, but when you consider them, I think you’ll agree it’s time to head back to the drawing board, which is where we are, so let’s do this. Continue reading

Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Cutthroat, Week 7 Power Rankings

“Let’s be honest: Cara Maria’s cute and she’s way more fun than the other girls. Of course, that plays a role in my decision.” —Abram


“They have the team that they wanted now, but I’m sorry—I don’t think that’s going to be good enough.” —Camila

 

The theme of last night’s episode was “proving yourself.” There was debate about what constitutes proving yourself, who had done it, and how much that should matter. Most of those surrounded Camila who, after last week’s fiasco, is as on the outs with her team as anyone can be. Tori, Brad, and Paula had all vowed to send Camila into the Gulag at every opportunity.

And yet, as several people pointed out in last night’s episode, Camila was really the only girl who had “proven herself.” In addition to winning the Gulag twice (while no other girl on her team has won even once), Camila has also been the strongest girl in challenges. Last night was no different: In a challenge that involved tight-rope walking in pairs across two skyscrapers, Camila was the only girl on her team to make it across. Paula fell off (and brought Dunbar with her), and Tori didn’t even try, since by then Red had already lost. Continue reading

Survivor Survival Guide: “Stuck in the Middle”

“It does look like a king and queen situation. But Sash is more a queen and I’m more a king.”

—Brenda, apparently channeling Shannon

“What do I have to lose? Something has to change, and it has to change soon.”

—Holly

We finally got our shakeup episode of Survivor: Nicaragua, coming one week before I thought it might* and two weeks before it did last season. “Stuck in the Middle” was a classic case of an alliance crumbling, precisely because it failed to properly buttress itself.

*Equivocate much?

“Stuck in the Middle” started with a “Previously on…” that was careful to mention the two Hidden Immunity Idols still in play and an image of stars that, like Kirsten Dunst, was crazy/beautiful. That’s what we call scene-setting, kids, what with Holly and Jane sneaking away from camp in the middle of the night to discuss their big strategic maneuver: what would later be referred to as “Operation: Take Out Brenda.”* Holly had some quick takers. With Marty gone, Jane could finally vote for someone else, and she considered Brenda “a villain” by this point.** Benry called Holly’s idea “a wake-up call,” which is odd considering Marty basically told Benry the same thing last week, and it was presumably a wake-up call then, too. NaOnka was the biggest possible get for Holly, with Na referring to her one-time closest ally Brenda as “Marty, Jr.” The one person who was resistant was Chase, who thought Benry should be the next to go.

*Ooh boy, I’d like to take out Brenda…to like a nice dinner, maybe a romantic comedy. I hear that Morning Glory is good. We’d have a nice time.

**Jane’s last non-Marty vote was for Dan, and she did it because “that’s what Coach wanted” one week after Jimmy Johnson had been eliminated.

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