Archive for the ‘Joie de Vivre’ Category

Joie de Vivre: Halloween Candy

On this all-important American holiday, Tim and Josh decided to dive into one of their tastiest debates: candy. So give them a break while they chew it over with Twix, avoid laying a finger on each other’s Butterfinger, and taste the rainbow. You may find that first they’re sour, then they’re sweet.

TIM: Well, it’s Halloween, Josh, and that can only mean one thing. Well, it means one thing at our age, and a different, more innocent thing when we were younger: candy. You have to hand it to whoever decided this was how Halloween would be celebrated, with little kids prancing around the neighborhood in costumes collecting mass quantities of candy. But of course, we’re greedy as kids, and there’s a definitive candy hierarchy, with certain candies frowned upon (Mary Janes, anyone?) and others received enthusiastically. So Josh, what candy were you most excited to get on Halloween as a kid, and has that changed at all since?

JOSH: Well, first, let me say that the main appeal of Halloween for me is still candy. When else can I go to CVS and have an option of purchasing more than ten bags of candy that each combine at least three different individual candies? Second, if there’s one video to link to on Halloween and candy, it’s this one. To answer your question, as a kid, I was most excited for sour candies, namely Sour Patch Kids. If you went to three houses, you’d almost be guaranteed one of those mini-Twix or Snickers bars, so chocolate bars were in high supply. But, you don’t see those mini-packs of Sour Patch Kids frequently, so, when I did stumble upon them, I tended to freak out a little. I still think sour candy is in undersupply on Halloween and Sour Patch Kids are the pinnacle of sour candy, so I’d venture to say I feel the same today as I did as a kid. Except now, I could just buy a jumbo pack of Sour Patch Kids at the store; eating them unsupervised, though, does present an issue. What about your favorite? And, do kids in New Jersey really prance around the streets?

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Joie de Vivre: Christmas Music

One of the (many) great things about Christmas is getting the chance (and the social leniency) to listen to Christmas music. Like most Catholics and Christmasphiles and unlike most everyone else, I love Christmas music.

I understand the complaints about Christmas music. I even agree that, for the most part, it sucks. Like, nine out of 10 Christmas songs played on the radio and in malls and other stores are indefensibly terrible.* Nothing promotes lazier “creativity” in music than Christmas, with popular artists knowing that an album of a dozen shoddy covers of public-domain classics will sell tremendously, since everyone knows someone who likes Christmas music and thus thinks buying that person a Christmas CD is a great and thoughtful gift.

*To be fair, this isn’t much different from the usual ratio on the radio these days.

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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

Joie de Vivre: Halloween Candy

On this all-important American holiday, Tim and Josh decided to dive into one of their tastiest debates: candy. So give them a break while they chew it over with Twix, avoid laying a finger on each other’s Butterfinger, and taste the rainbow. You may find that first they’re sour, then they’re sweet.

TIM: Well, it’s Halloween, Josh, and that can only mean one thing. Well, it means one thing at our age, and a different, more innocent thing when we were younger: candy. You have to hand it to whoever decided this was how Halloween would be celebrated, with little kids prancing around the neighborhood in costumes collecting mass quantities of candy. But of course, we’re greedy as kids, and there’s a definitive candy hierarchy, with certain candies frowned upon (Mary Janes, anyone?) and others received enthusiastically. So Josh, what candy were you most excited to get on Halloween as a kid, and has that changed at all since?

JOSH: Well, first, let me say that the main appeal of Halloween for me is still candy. When else can I go to CVS and have an option of purchasing more than ten bags of candy that each combine at least three different individual candies? Second, if there’s one video to link to on Halloween and candy, it’s this one. To answer your question, as a kid, I was most excited for sour candies, namely Sour Patch Kids. If you went to three houses, you’d almost be guaranteed one of those mini-Twix or Snickers bars, so chocolate bars were in high supply. But, you don’t see those mini-packs of Sour Patch Kids frequently, so, when I did stumble upon them, I tended to freak out a little. I still think sour candy is in undersupply on Halloween and Sour Patch Kids are the pinnacle of sour candy, so I’d venture to say I feel the same today as I did as a kid. Except now, I could just buy a jumbo pack of Sour Patch Kids at the store; eating them unsupervised, though, does present an issue. What about your favorite? And, do kids in New Jersey really prance around the streets?

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Joie de Vivre: Why I Love the Ryder Cup

Since I already started one post this week with a look-back to the fall of 1999,* why not another? The 1999 Ryder Cup was one of the greatest sports moments of my life — I’ve never rooted harder for an American team in international competition. When Justin Leonard’s putt back-rimmed and fell, well, that was just about the happiest I’ve ever been about a golf event.

*And while we’re at it, remember this from last year?

Ever since, the Ryder Cup has been one of my three to five favorite sporting events.*

*It’s particularly difficult for me to rank the Ryder Cup because of its biennial nature. As it stands, I look forward to it more than I do the Super Bowl, but if it were every year, this would certainly not be the case.**

**March Madness is indisputably No. 1.

What makes the Ryder Cup so appealing, and why am I particularly amped for today’s conclusion? Let’s count:

1. It’s unlike anything else in golf.

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The Suburbs: Review

“Sometimes I wonder if the world is so small that we can never get away from the sprawl…” —Arcade Fire, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”

“I used to think I was not like them, but I’m beginning to have my doubts…” —Arcade Fire, “City With No Children”

When I was 17, I saw Arcade Fire in what remains the best live performance I have ever seen. It was February 2, 2005, and even though the band’s first album, Funeral, had only been out for a little over four months, it seemed like Arcade Fire had been around forever. By the time the concert rolled around, the band was big enough to bring David Byrne on stage to perform an encore for an audience that included, among others, David Bowie.

In fact, Funeral had had so much buzz prior to its release that it seemed destined to underwhelm. I, for one, was ready to play contrarian and bash it, if only because “Arcade Fire” is a really stupid name for a band. The only problem, though, was that the album was legitimately awesome. From the opening track, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” I loved it, and I was happy, for once, to completely understand what all the fuss was about.

Of course, with such a hyped and successful debut, there come questions of whether or not those fortunes can be duplicated. And while I really like their second album, and I really enjoyed them the next time I saw them in concert, I had started to think that Funeral was the kind of lightning-in-a-bottle success story that only happens to a band once.

The release of The Suburbs, though, has changed that. Continue reading

Joie de Vivre: Bill Raftery

Tonight is the NIT Championship game at Madison Square Garden; tonight is one of the worst nights of the year.

Now, in strictly basketball terms, the NIT Championship game is rarely worth watching. The game usually pits a team that just missed the NCAA Tournament with one that didn’t really have a chance for much of the conference season, and that mold pretty much holds true this year, with Dayton playing North Carolina. Even as a Duke fan, I have very little invested in the Tar Heels’ tilt with the Flyers. If UNC wins, it will have to hang the ignominious “NIT Champion” banner; if it loses, it couldn’t even win the NIT. I don’t really care.

But I will watch the game, for the only reason there ever really exists to watch the NIT Championship: It is the last college basketball game Bill Raftery announces every year.

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Ranking the Bill of Rights, Number 1: The First Amendment

It’s been nearly eight months since we started our journey by placing the Second Amendment in its rightful place: last. The problems that plagued the Second Amendment—lack of clarity and dubious public policy justifications—are perhaps the greatest strengths of our first-place finisher,* the Fightin’ First! I present to you the First Amendment:

*Of course, its clarity and phenomenal public policy justifications are its strengths.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment is wide-reaching: It protects freedom of speech and of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition. It also has the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses, which manage the relationship between religion and state. All these components have contributed to the First’s first-place finish, but what propels the First Amendment to the top of these rankings is its first and deservedly foremost freedoms of speech and press.

Freedom of speech and the press

The U.S. is unique among most countries in its seemingly unqualified* protection of freedom of speech and the press.** The European Convention on Human Rights provides for Freedom of Speech except when restrictions are necessary “for the protection of health or morals,” “for the protection of the reputation and rights of others,” and for other concerns like national security. In France, free speech may be limited “[if it is necessary] to respond to the abuse of this liberty, in the cases determined by the law.” Accordingly, in France, publicly denying the Holocaust and inciting racial hatred are not protected by free speech. In Germany, free speech may be limited “to protect personal honor” or “young persons.” England abides by the European Convention but has additional limitations, including the criminalization of the incitement of racial and religious hatred and ridiculously strict defamation laws. In India, freedom of speech may be limited “to protect the integrity of India” and for “decency and morality.” Some countries, like China, claim to protect freedom of speech but ignore their constitutions so blatantly that the words have little meaning.

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Joie de Vivre: NFL Films

In the best football news of an otherwise forgettable postseason, a vast archive of NFL Films footage is now available on Hulu. In related news, I have not left my residence in several days.

With eloquent narration from a series of memorably baritone voices, a sweeping and adventurous instrumental score, and a slow-motion aesthetic that became its trademark, NFL Films has become an integral part of football’s popularity in America. It isn’t a stretch to say that it helped fuel the sport’s growth and acceptance in American culture, to the point where it is now, if unofficially, the nation’s pastime.

It’s a remarkable achievement considering football’s inherent disadvantages in reaching an audience. First, fewer children play football than basketball or baseball (or, from what I hear, soccer), and thus fewer adults have an understanding of how the sport is played. It’s a far more complex sport than the others in terms of strategy: I have watched football for over 15 years and still know only the basics of the Cover 2 defense, which is more than can be said for most people who watch the sport. Compare this to basketball or even better baseball, where real “analysis” comes down to pitch sequence and whether the manager should have brought in a reliever or bunted. Continue reading

Joie de Vivre: Still Remembering the ’99 NLCS

This is Part II of my overly nostalgic look at the 1999 NLCS. It focuses on Game 6–played 10 years ago today–and the aftermath of the series. You can find Part I here.

They say the beauty of baseball is that you don’t have days off. You’re supposed to forget what happened the day before and immediately move on, almost as if what happened the day before didn’t happen at all.

The beauty of the ’99 NLCS was that there was a day off. Between the elation of Game 5 and the first pitch of Game 6, I could wax poetically about how Game 5 could never be topped and then intrepidly ponder how the teams would top it in Games 6 and 7. In winning Games 4 and 5 in their final at-bat, the Mets did to Atlanta what had been done to them so many times by seizing victory from the edge of defeat. And now, winning twice more to take the series and complete the comeback didn’t only seem possible; it seemed likely. After all, the Mets had just won two! And we had our two best starters, Al Leiter and Rick Reed, slated to start the final two games of the series. I can’t overstate the confidence I had in Reed for a possible Game 7. Even though Reed would be facing Tom Glavine, who had tossed seven shutout innings in Game 3, I was 90 percent sure he’d outpitch him and we’d win. I suppose I approached it the same way Astros’ fans felt about Game 6 of the ’86 NLCS against the Mets with Mike Scott* in the hole: This was the deciding game. A win in Game 6, and we would go to—and probably win—the World Series. Everything was set up perfectly.

*I don’t know what prompted me to have this insane level of confidence in Reed. I mean, he was good. But Mike Scott in ’86 was unbeatable. And cheating. He was definitely, definitely cheating.

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