Thursday, December 31, 2015

Other People's Writing

Let’s pause for a moment to realize just how badly the “Other People’s Writing” feature will dry up without Grantland.  Sighhhhh

* Wait, one more Grantland piece for me to mine for content!  A profile of the late, great Jan Hooks as Mike Thomas details the former SNL star’s final days and why she more or less retired from acting in the 21st century.  The reason seems to be part health issues, part a hinted-at drinking problem and mostly just Hooks losing interest in being famous.

* Keeping with the SNL theme, here’s a profile of Leslie Jones from the New Yorker's Andrew Marantz.  I am beyond excited for the new Ghostbusters.  It may be my most-anticipated movie of 2016, unless Hollywood has somehow been filming a biopic about me without my permission.  Oddly enough, it’s also starring Leslie Jones.

* Speaking of a life made into a movie, NBC Sportsworld’s Joe Posnanski has the too-cinematic-to-be-true story of dressage rider Laura Graves.  In a way, having a story this good written about you is an even better reward than an Olympic medal.  In another, more accurate, way, I think Graves would prefer actually getting into the Games.

* More Posnanski, this one looking back at one of (all things considered) greatest marketing campaigns in history, the old “Alcoa’s Fantastic Finishes” sponsorship that used to run during the two-minute warnings of NFL games in the 1980’s.  These ads really paved the way for the many ways in which advertising and sports intersect, which is why I’m currently watching a bowl game with a long mouthful of a name as opposed to just the “___ Bowl.”  Thanks for nothing, Alcoa.

* This one’s a few months old but somehow I haven’t linked to it already….ah well, just pretend there’s been a “best of 2015” theme in this post.  It’s the last post of the year anyway, whaddya want from me?  Regardless, here’s Larry David talking to Golf Digest about his golf game and the sport in general.  Let’s also pause to raise an eyebrow at the fact that Golf Digest apparently has a ‘comedy issue.’  I think it’s just a collection of my last 150 scorecards.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Journalism 101

People often ask me, “Mark, how did you get your job since you seem to lack competence in even the most basic of skills?”  Well, it’s a simple formula.  It’s 2% hard work, 2% spelling ability, 5% having access to a good spell-check program on word processor, and 91% this helpful kit.  Let’s break down the steps…

* I used to use an A5 white lockable journal, but it wasn’t until I upgraded to the A6 that my career really took off.  My first day in the press box, my peers were like “only a total moron would use an A5, that’s amateur hour,” and I kept my mouth shut to avoid being shunned from day one.  (I ended up being shunned anyway due to my body odour, though that’s another story for another time.)  Also, if you have a journal without a lock, you’re just asking for trouble.  You may as well walk around with your e-mail password tattooed on your forehead.

* Nothing is worse than when your pen runs out of ink while taking notes during a key interview or press conference.  With a glitter gel pen, however, you can simply crack it open, pour the gel on your notepad and use it to keep transcribing.  You’ll get extra time to transcribe since the interview subject will naturally stop and ask what the hell you’re doing.

* A big part of journalism is cultivating and getting information from sources.  Outright paying for information is a no-no, of course, though a little bribery isn’t entirely frowned upon.  For instance, giving your source a lovely confetti flower in exchange for a big scoop brightens everyone’s day.  The only downside is that confetti flowers don’t smell as nice as real flowers, so you can’t use them yourself to mask the body odour that hypothetically makes one a pariah in the press box.

* If it’s a really big scoop, forget the flowers and upgrade to a gemstone.  That source is worth it.  Who can forget that immortal scene from All The President Men when Bernstein gives Deep Throat an emerald for all of his great work.

* Nobody wants to be just one of a dozen anonymous scribes holding a tape recorder in the middle of a press scrum.  If your recorder is covered in sequins, it’ll definitely stand out and make your subject pay closer attention to your questions.  (Or, it’ll get them to ask you a question, i.e. the aforementioned “what the hell are you doing?”)  Also, if it turns out your recorder was out of battery power and you missed an entire interview, you can drown your sorrows by huffing some glue.

* Pro tip: glitter glue is not nearly as good for huffing purposes.  It just makes the inside of your nose look like Rip Taylor.

* It may seem like your idea booklet and your A6 white lockable journal are pretty similar but they are COMPLETELY AND ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.  If you write an idea into your journal,  the lock snaps shut and you have to go on a vision quest to obtain an ancient key to open it.  If you write anything besides an idea into your idea booklet, it bursts into flame.  This may sound dangerous, but you actually have quite a bit of leeway since pretty much anything can be an idea.  If you write ‘turnip car’ into your booklet, for instance, that technically counts.  (Though just to be safe, you should probably stick a question mark at the end of everything — turnip car?)

If you purchase this kit, you’ll be winning Pulitzers, eating unhealthily and wearing pleated khakis in no time. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas w/ Billy, Will & Chris

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Nothing says holidays like Billy Eichner and Will Ferrell yelling at people.


Also, Christmas Day is Chris Kamara's birthday, giving me yet another excuse to post this video

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Survivor Ratings: Jeremy

For just the third time in its history, Survivor had an all-returning player season and the biggest difference between S31 and its predecessors (S8 and S20) was that unlike those earlier “all-stars” years, this one didn’t end in horrific bitterness.  The two previous seasons were so sour and largely lacking in good feeling that S31 had a leg up simply by not making me want to take a shower after watching it.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that all 20 players were voted onto the show by fans, so they felt on some level like a winner just for making the cut.  Maybe it was because this bunch seemed relatively level-headed and were mostly focused on the game, whereas the bad vibes of the previous couple of seasons seemed mostly to stem from legit hurt real-life feelings (i.e. Lex feeling betrayed by Rob, everyone loathing Russell Hantz).

The one common link, however, was that all three returning-player seasons featured a final vote that seemed just as much a vote against the losing Final Tribal Council players as it was a vote for the winner.  Amber won because there was so much anti-Rob animosity, Sandra won because everyone loved her and everyone hated Russell (and to some extent Parvati), and Jeremy Collins won in a unanimous vote in a seemingly uber-version of that Sandra victory.  Let’s check out Jeremy’s case….

How He Won: Virtually everyone on this “second chance” season made an adjustment to their previous Survivor strategy since, well, it obviously didn’t work the first time.  Jeremy’s adjustment was interesting since he didn’t necessarily change his own game but rather just did a better job of hiding it.  In S29, Jeremy was the clear big dog on his alliance and it made him a big target post-merge, so this time around he looked to surround himself with other alpha-type players (Joe, Tasha, Savage, sorta Keith) so he wasn’t as obvious a threat.  This idea was shaken up by the multiple tribe swaps, but Jeremy adapted by sticking with his “old Bayon” teammates (Kimmi, Stephen) who all stayed together through the swaps and also picking up other temporary alliance with the likes of Spencer or Kelly Wiglesworth.

Let’s talk for a second about the whole “voting bloc” thing that was allegedly so ground-breaking this season.  It was basically all horsecrap.  From the merge, you had the core alliance of Jeremy/Tasha/Kimmi/Andrew/Stephen, the Ciera/Kelley/Kass/Abi minority, and the Joe/Kelly/Keith/Spencer swing votes that mostly swung with the group of five.  (They all joined with the Big Five for the first two post-merge votes, until Kelly was blindsided.)  So it was essentially a three-alliance game at that point that was a bit more fluid than usual thanks to the wild card that was Joe.  He drew so much attention since he was SUCH a challenge beast that everyone had their eyes on getting him out as quickly as possible, which is why the women’s alliance didn’t join up with him full-bore.  Joe himself was trying to play a bit of the ‘hide amongst the alphas’ strategy which is why he also didn’t join full-bore against Jeremy’s alliance.

Every Survivor season has players targeted for being challenge threats yet Joe was such an outlier that, really, it proved Jeremy’s strategy correct.  There were several points in this game when Jeremy didn’t have control in a vote — the blindsides of Andrew and Stephen, for instance — yet he avoided being targeted himself since those other big players he was teamed with had drawn more attention (and enmity) to themselves.  I also wonder if Jeremy was considered for a boot but kept in part because the others needed someone around to give Joe a run for his money in physical challenges.

Long story short, this season wasn’t really all that different from any other Survivor season that had a big majority alliance that took a few detours to victory (whether via opponents playing idols or some strategic vote-offs of unneeded alliance members) rather than being a straight Pagonging.  While Jeremy ended up in the FTC with only one of his original alliance and one of the swing votes, the numbers game still ended up working in his favour.  The “voting bloc” narrative was pushed by Probst and, it seemed, Stephen and Ciera to try and make things perhaps more complicated than they really were — Ciera to try and help her own game, and Stephen because I swear, that guy is such a gamebot that he could obsess over a four-person voting structure even worse than Michael Bluth in the dorm room.

Skillset: Jeremy was an important part of Bayon’s early challenge domination and he won that final individual immunity challenge, so it’s not like he was a stick in the mud out there.  Still, that final challenge was the ONLY thing Jeremy won himself in the post-merge game.  It’s usually a bad spot to be the “perceived to be a threat but not actually that good at challenges” guy, though it isn’t impossible to win from this role (as Ethan showed us way back in the third season).  Again, playing amongst actual challenge/gameplay threats helped Jeremy in this regard.  It also didn’t hurt that Jeremy helped himself by having two immunity idols of his own to aid his game, including the big one that saved him at that insane F6 tribal council.

The biggest thing that seemed to go in Jeremy’s favour was, as usual, that he seemed to be like and respected by everyone out there.  This is Survivor’s dirty secret; no matter how much the show talks up “big moves” and “big plays,” the final vote is virtually always just a popularity contest.  Jeremy was wholly more liked than Tasha and Spencer*, hence his blowout victory.

* = as several post-game interviews with the players has revealed, the show’s editors did quite a job in hiding how disliked Tasha and Spencer were by everyone else.  For all of the “I’m learning how to play with emotion” interviews that Spencer got, apparently that was falling flat in real life.  His bratty outburst to Jeremy at the F4 vote when he threatened to swing the jury against him if he didn’t vote for Kelley also apparently went over extremely poorly with the jury members, as evidenced by Kimmi’s statement/question to him in the final tribal council.  Don’t forget, Spencer was almost voted out 19th when he and Shirin alienated everyone right off the bat….I doubt he ever really recovered even from that.

While I kind of pooh-poohed the ‘voting bloc’ thing, Jeremy certainly didn’t have an easy Pagonging road to the finals.  He had to adapt to several tricky blows, like Kelley idol’ing Savage out of the game and then Joe/Keith switching sides in the wake of the Kelly blindside and eventually ousting Stephen.  Though Jeremy did win, he may have made a tactical mistake in voting Kelly out when he did — that was an anti-Joe move they felt they had to make since Joe was safe with immunity but Kelly was apparently his closest ally (something we viewers didn’t know, so thanks for nothing, editors).  Still, it seemed like Stephen took all the heat for that move rather than Jeremy so ultimately it didn’t hurt him that much, though it did make things a bit trickier.

Jeremy’s best play, ultimately, was teaming up with two goats in Spencer and Tasha who didn’t realize they were goats and thus unwittingly helped lead him to victory.  Spencer/Tasha were actually probably right in thinking that they had a better chance of beating Jeremy than they did Kelley, Joe or Keith….it’s just that they would’ve lost 10-0 to any of them as well.  (I’m wondering at this point whether Tasha/Spencer would’ve even beaten Abi, if that had somehow been the final three.)

Could He Do It Again:
Jeremy is a thoroughly solid all-around player who’s good-but-not-overtly-good in challenges, a first-rate idol finder, seemingly a very nice and respectable guy with a fine social game AND he won an all-returnee season.  I’m down on returning players who win seasons of at least half-newcomers, yet I’m very admiring of any player who can win an “All-Star” season.  This is why Sandra going 2-for-2 with her second win coming in an all-returnee year makes her almost the greatest of all time.

Beyond the experienced opponents, Jeremy also had to contend with the extra difficulties of the frequent tribe swaps and the idols hidden either at camp or in challenges (both twists that I loved, btw).  The fact that he navigated both of those twists in such prime form really cemented his victory, really.

However, for pure ‘could he do it again?’ purposes, I’m not sure.  It depends on how you interpret this category, really.  Jeremy’s win here was largely informed by his past experience; if you’re having Jeremy play a hypothetical season in a vacuum, then, he might not have the learned idea to hide amongst other alpha players, for instance.  If you put the Jeremy v. 2.0 that won Cambodia into another Survivor game, he may very easily do well again.  If you put him amidst other experienced players, however, I suspect he’s targeted early since a past victory will make him too big to ignore even among other “alphas” he could be playing with.  Jeremy’s flaw, if you can call it that, is that he’s unable to directly hide how good he is at the game — he’s only able to obscure it by aligning with the likes of Stephen or Savage, and he was helped this time in that players often had bigger fish to fry in the form of Joe and Kelley (who played a hell of a game that in many ways mirrored Jeremy’s except she was on the wrong end of the numbers).

In my dream scenario of an all-winners season of Survivor, Jeremy might do very well since in such a season, that would be nothing BUT strong players to hide amongst.  With S31 still fresh in my mind, I’m hard-pressed to put Jeremy anywhere but within the top ten in my Survivor winners’ rankings.  Call it recency bias, but I can’t help but be impressed by how well Jeremy navigated a very difficult season.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas List(amania!)

My top 15 favourite Christmas songs...a couple of traditional carols in there, but mostly pop songs...

15. Let Me Sleep (Pearl Jam)
14. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) (Nat King Cole)
13. The First Noel
12. Silent Night
11. Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms)
10. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland)
9. Carol Of The Bells
8. Christmas In Hollis (Run DMC)
7. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darlene Love)
6. River (Joni Mitchell)
5. Winter Wonderland
4. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) (The Chipmunks)
3. I Believe In Father Christmas
2. O Holy Night
1. All I Want For Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hot! Live! Music!

Eagles Of Death Metal and U2, “People Have The Power”
Enough said


The Edge, “Running To Stand Still”
On my list of things that I would do all day if I could, “listening to the Edge mess around on the guitar” ranks just between “taste tester for Baskin Robbins” and “watch internet videos of people laughing uncontrollably”


U2, “Magnificent”

U2’s recent tour didn’t have a ton of setlist variation from night, apart from their “e-stage” set when they rolled through quite a few songs in semi-impromptu style.  One of those songs was a one-off performance of Magnificent, a track that I always felt U2 had high hopes for but abandoned since they never quite nailed playing it live.  This version is certainly the best of any version I’d ever heard, though U2 never played it again and went back to pretending that the entire No Line On The Horizon album never existed.


U2, “Gloria”
The other notable area of setlist variety (sort of) was the second song of the night, when U2 would play one of their early hits to reflect the ‘punk’ theme of the first act.  The band rotated through Out Of Control (good), Electric Co (great) and Gloria (the best, since the guys seemed really into a song they’d played so infrequently in the last couple of decades).


U2, “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”

Case in point — U2 was so tired of the NLOTH tracks that they didn’t even play many of them on the album’s own supporting tour.  And one of the few that actually became an every-show staple was drastically reworked from its recorded version, as U2 embraced a remix and turned ‘Crazy Tonight’ from a mid-tempo dad rock song into a dance-club banger.  The original isn’t one of my favourites but damn if that isn’t a good chorus; just look at the big beaming smile on Adam Clayton’s face at 2:05.  You can’t put a price on that!


U2, “Vertigo”
So back during the Vertigo Tour, U2 used to actually play the namesake song twice — once as the second tune of the night and then again as the last song of the encore.  The idea was to harken back to U2’s early days when they had so few songs that they had to play all their early hits (I Will Follow, Out Of Control, 11 O’Clock Tick Tock) early in the set and then play them all again in the encore.  Cute idea when you’re an up-and-coming band, less cute when you’re a fan paying $100 for a ticket and hearing the same song more than once.

Friday, December 11, 2015

UFC 194 Predictions

A UFC predictions post?  Whaaaaa?!  What year is this?  It's a big card so I figured why not, let's dust off the ol' MMA prognostication hat.

* Chris Weidman over Luke Rockhold, TKO, R3
Our first of two title bouts puts the momentum-less champion against the technically-deserving challenger.  It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two and a half years since Weidman’s shock knockout of Anderson Silva, and almost two years since Silva flukishly broke his leg on Weidman’s shin in the rematch.  (Weidman claimed that he’d trained that specific kick-blocking technique and took credit for the Silva win but come on man, that was a fluke.  Everyone blocks kicks and 99.99% of them don’t end in horrific leg breaks.  Get over yourself.)  This is only Weidman’s third fight in all of 2014-15 due to a number of injuries, though it’s worth noting that he hasn’t exactly slowed down…he put down Lyoto Machida in a decision and then knocked out Vitor Belfort.  This brings us to Rockhold, who got his shot via four straight wins over, um, good competition?  Costa Philippou was a good win at the time, Tim Boetsch and Michael Bisping are career midcarders and Machida is over the hill.  These two have more or less the same fighting style so I’ll pick Weidman a) since he’s better at it and b) until someone actually beats Weidman, I’m hard-pressed to pick against him.  I have to roll my eyes at Rockhold even getting this shot since…

* Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza over Yoel Romero, decision
…Jacare is on a freakin’ eight-fight winning streak, six of which were in the UFC.  Granted, Souza’s last loss was indeed to Rockhold in Strikeforce, but even still, Weidman’s constant injuries have hurt Jacare the most.  There’s no question he would’ve gotten a title shot already had Weidman been more active, and since then he’s kind of just been spinning his wheels while the UFC lines up bigger-name ex-champs and Rockhold for the title shots.  The UFC also has a specific bone to pick with this Souza/Romero match since it’s already been rescheduled twice.  Admittedly, it should be a great fight, as Romero has himself been kicking ass and taking names at middleweight.  Presuming Weidman doesn’t slip on a banana peel on his way out of the cage, we should finally be able to get regular title defenses rolling in the middleweight division and Souza/Romero will face the champ next.  The challenge will be if the submission specialist Jacare can get Romero down, though I suspect he’ll be able to before Romero can land one of his bombs.

* Demian Maia over Gunnar Nelson, decision
Interesting fight here between a young up-and-comer the UFC would love to promote as a future star and a wizened veteran who the UFC may or may not would wish to kinda go away.  The old “submit you from anywhere” Maia hasn’t been seen in years, as he has a grand total of two subs in his last 10 victories.  Nelson, meanwhile, gets more of his victories via submission and yet I really can’t see him beating Maia at his own game.  Expect a semi-dull three-rounder here as Nelson isn’t quite ready yet.

* Max Holloway over Jeremy Stephens, decision
The UFC has an interesting set of options for its next featherweight challenger.  If Frankie Edgar beats Chad Mendes tonight, I would heartily assume Edgar gets the next shot — he’s a big name, he’s never faced McGregor and his previous shot at Aldo was a closely-contested decision loss almost three years ago.  If Mendes wins, however, the UFC may not want to book another Mendes/McGregor match so soon and they surely don’t want to book Mendes/Aldo a third time when Aldo has already beaten him twice.  So that could open the door for Holloway to get a title shot with a win over Stephens, as Mad Max has rather quietly rattled off seven straight wins.  It feels like this guy has been around forever but he’s still just 24 and maybe not even in his prime.  Holloway would be a good fresh face within a division that’s been stagnated by Aldo’s injuries and the UFC’s nonstop desire to push McGregor above everything.  Stephens could certainly win though he actually is a ‘been around forever’ guy who’s always been a step or two below the top tier.  He’s a prototypical gatekeeper and Holloway needs to bust through the gate to finally get his shot at the belt.

* Jose Aldo over Conor McGregor, TKO, R2
I honestly have no idea how this fight will play out given all of the external factors surrounding it.  Aldo hasn’t fought in over a year due to injuries, so I’m breaking my long-standing rule of never picking a guy coming off a long layoff.  McGregor, meanwhile, was himself allegedly hurt going into that Mendes fight, with a self-diagnosed “80% ACL tear” that can’t possibly be true since if it was, he’d still be on the shelf.  I’ve yet to really buy into the hype on McGregor since he so often wins with *just* enough question that I have to raise an eyebrow — the back-of-the-head punches on Dustin Poirier or the short-notice win over an untrained Mendes that I feel safe in discounting completely for either man.  McGregor obviously has a lot of talent and yet that weird Mendes ‘win’ aside, he’s yet to actually face any of the top featherweights.  In this arguably most stacked of all the UFC’s divisions, Conor got to the interim title without having to face Aldo, Edgar, Ricardo Lamas or Cub Swanson (he did beat Holloway in August 2013, which was also the last time Holloway lost).  It’s still an open question as to how good McGregor actually is.

We know how good Aldo is, as he’s beaten all comers to his title but there are still a couple of questions lingering around him as well.  Firstly, the 14-month layoff.  Secondly, McGregor has openly said he’ll stand and trade with Aldo, a strategy that most guys don’t even attempt for fear of getting KTFO, yet that’s McGregor’s only chance against Aldo — I doubt McGregor could even get Aldo to the ground, and if he did, he’s not nearly as accomplished at submissions.  The other catch with Aldo is that he’s a guy who’s had cardio issues even at his best, so after being out of the cage for a year, that’s going to be a bigger problem than usual.  This fight may well be a slugfest for the first 2-3 rounds and if it goes longer than that, I may favour McGregor on sheer stamina.  If McGregor can actually back up all his talk and hype here, I’ll eat my words, yet I have a feeling Aldo is going to erase all doubts as to who’s the real featherweight champ.

UNDERCARD
* Leonardo Santos over Kevin Lee, submission, R3
* Urijah Faber over Frankie Saenz, submission, R2…
surprisingly, this isn’t a late injury replacement.  Seriously, the best guy they can get for Faber is Frankie Saenz?  Frankie Saenz, relax.
* Tecia Torres over Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger, decision
* Warlley Alves vs. Colby Covington, decision….
I feel like guys names Warlley and Colby should be squaring off in a yachting match rather than an MMA fight, but still.
* Yancy Medeiros over John Makdessi, decision
* Marcio Alexandre Jr. over Court McGee, decision
* Magomed Mustafaev over Joe Proctor, TKO, R1

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Love's Labour's Lost (Shakespeare Re-Read #17)

It occurs to me that the “twitterpated” scene in Bambi told a much more concise story of “some bros make a pact to stay from women and then they all more or less instantly break that pact” than William Shakespeare did.  Love’s Labour’s Lost is, if nothing else, long as hell.  (Long Love’s Labour’s Lost?)  It’s an absolute barrage of punnery and wordplay from start to finish, to the point where even I had to say enough. 

Virtually every character spoke in nothing but flowery prose.  The buffoons had flowery prose.  The wits had flowery prose to deflate the others’ flowery prose. Even the “simple” characters like Mote or the Clown got in on the act.  The play features that one sublime joke of Constable Dull literally not speaking for all of Act V, Scene i until the very end since he simply couldn’t keep up, and frankly, I felt like Constable Dull throughout.

Long-time readers of this Shakespeare Re-Read series have learned to place bets on when I’ll include this next criticism within one of my posts, so if you had the third graph, then winner winner chicken dinner for you.  Anyway, my main issue with LLL was that, you guessed it, it was a chore to read (but I’m sure great on the stage).  Page after page of long, elaborate speeches just became a bit much.  I never thought I, king of the dad jokes, would ever read anything and claim there were simply too many puns, and yet here it is.  It’s like Homer being trapped in hell and being made to eat all the doughnuts in the world — he could take it, but like James Coco, I quickly went mad at this nonstop feast of intricate dialogue.

As you’ll recall from childhood, that scene from Bambi is maybe five minutes long.  LLL takes a much longer time to make its same plot point, and while some of Shakespeare’s comedies are notoriously thin on plot, this one is essentially a one-joke premise.  Navarre and his three lords swear up and down that they’re devoting themselves to study and foreswearing women, not unlike George Constanza in that one episode of Seinfeld, or me on involuntary terms during high school and university.  (Sigh)  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to guess what’s going to happen next to deflate these four windbags, so now the only drama is in seeing just how they’re going to get their joint comeuppance. 

This was my first time reading LLL and at this point, I was pretty amused.  Surely ol’ Billy Shakes had some classic farce in store for this most basic of premises.  Instead, what happens is…the French princess and her three ladies show up, the guys all more or less instantly fall for them, the girls know it and want to jerk them around a bit with a verrrrry laboured costume-and-character plot, the guys are all dolts and it all ends in a happy ending when everyone reveals their love. 

Or wait!  No, it actually ends with the French king dying and everyone essentially hitting the pause button on love while the princess returns to France to settle all the affairs.  All of these labours for love have been lost, for now, in the name of family obligation.  It’s a strange ending, like Shakespeare pulling a record scratch on all this frivolity and perhaps transitioning the characters from lovestruck fools to adults with actual issues.  The princess is now, presumably, her country’s head of state.  If she’s marrying the King of Navarre, suddenly you have an official union between the two countries and a power shift in European politics.  So Navarre not only foregoes his desire for a semi-ecclesiastic study, he may not even get to enjoy love if he’s thrown into a political mess.  Lord knows that kings and queens in Shakespeare’s works never seem to be having too much fun.

The rather abrupt ending stands out even more considering it caps off what is literally the longest scene in Shakespearean dramatic history.  My copy of the play has Act V, Scene ii clocking in at a cool 1003 lines, during which a million ridiculous things happen that are supposedly borderline amusing.  The whole thing feels, perhaps intentionally, very laboured — between all the disguises and the performance-within-a-play aspects, it feels like Shakespeare is lazily spoofing himself rather than give this play a proper denouement. 

Perhaps fittingly, LLL’s sudden shift to tragedy in its ending forecasts a shift in my Re-Read schedule.  I’m not doing this in any particular order, except for one significant decision that will become clear shortly.  What I’m saying this, LLL is our last comedy for a while, so it’s maybe a bit unfortunate that we’re going out on this too-clever-for-its-own-good note.

OVERALL RATING: C+

RANKING THE PLAYS THUS FAR

17. Pericles
16. The Taming Of The Shrew
15. Antony & Cleopatra
14. Troilus & Cressida
13. Love’s Labour’s Lost
12. As You Like It
11. Much Ado About Nothing
10. Coriolanus
9. The Two Gentlemen Of Verona
8. The Comedy Of Errors
7. The Winter's Tale
6. A Midsummer Night's Dream
5. Julius Caesar
4. Macbeth
3. Cymbeline
2. Twelfth Night
1. Othello

My New Year's resolution for 2012 was to re-read (and in some cases, read for the first time) all 38 of William Shakespeare's plays.  2012 has long since ended, but still, onward and upward.  And, since in these modern times it's impossible to undertake a personal project without blogging about it, here are a series of reviews/personal observances I'll make about the plays.  Well, 'reviews' is a bit of a stretch.  It's William freakin’ Shakespeare.  What am I going to tell you, "Don't bother reading this one, folks!  What a stinker!  Ol' Mark doesn't like it, so you should definitely believe ME over 400 years of dramatic criticism!"

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Chris Cornell's One(s)

I'm over two years late to the party with this, but it sounded great!  Can't wait for Cornell's cover of the Beatles' "Birthday" with Katy Perry's "Birthday"

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Daily Simpsons Dialogue (The Compendium)

A smarter blogger who monetizing this site would keep the years-long "Daily Simpsons Dialogue" in its seven separate posts in order to generate as many pageviews as possible.  Then again, I already kinda blew that plan by creating the 'Simpsons Dialogue' label in the first place.  Clearly I have as much business sense as someone who invests in pumpkins and doesn't sell the stock before Halloween.

So here it is, the FULL LIST of all the Simpsons lines I say on a more or less daily basis.  Maybe it's a weekly basis to be accurate, since come on, there are an awful lot of lines here.  I may not say this many words total on any given day, let alone solely Simpsons lines.

"His food is getting all cold and eaten."
"Urge to kill fading, fading, RISING, fading…gone."
"Sorry Mom, the mob has spoken!"
"What time and how burnt?"
"It's a pretty standard stunt, Homer."
"Way to get Marge pregnant, heh heh heh."
"Somebody ate part of my lunch."
"____ is named _____?  I've been calling her Crandall!  Why didn't someone tell me?  Oh, I've been making an idiot out of myself!"
"Hey Ma, look at the curly-hair'ded little girl.  Guh'hyuk!"
"Homercles cares not for beans!"
"Here you go, your majesty!"
"Sweet merciful crap!"
"A little from column A, and a little from column B."
"The ring came off my pudding can!"
"Must've been that bean I had for dinner."
"Me fail English?  That's unpossible!"
"Forty seconds?  But I want it now!"
"Hello, that sounded like a pig fainting!"
"And it only transports matter…."
"Y'ar, I'm not attractive."
"I just had the most beautiful dream where I died."
“By the great good lord…”
“Oh crap!  I shouldn’t have said…”
“Oh, it’s too hot today.”
“Look at me!  Grade me!  Evaluate and rank me!”
“You’ve got it, no deer for a month!”
“Surprise witnesses, each more surprising than the last!”
“That dog has a puffy tail!”
"Say some gangster is dissing your fly girl.  You just give him one of these!"
"Avec plaisir!"
“See you in the car!”
“Aw, now Paul Newman’s gonna have my legs broke.”
"It's just you and me now, lock of hair."
"Oh my god, he's killed the original Alfalfa!"
“All pathetic single men.  Only cash, no chit-chat.”
"Go get 'em, scouts!  Don't be afraid to use your nails, boys!"
"I can't believe you don't shut up!"
“Dollary-doos!”
“No no, let her speak.  I’m trying to get fired.”
“Arr, this chair be high, says I!”
“In Rand McNally, people wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people.”
"I was unaware!  I was unaware!"
"Excuse me, Professor Brainiac…"
"It's the least I can do.  Well, the least I can do is absolutely nothing but I'll do you one better!"
"If we don't come back, avenge our deaths!"
"Hot stuff, coming through!"
"How do you figure, boy?"
"Ah, that's better.  I can ride a bike again!"
"Looks like it's suicide again for me."
"And that's the end of THAT chapter."
"Speed holes.  They make the car go faster."
"This both sucks and blows."
"And that's the end of THAT chapter!"
"You'll have to speak up, I'm wearing a towel."
"Par-tee down?"  "Yes!"
"Have the Rolling Stones killed."
"Mmmm….64 slices of American cheese."
"Be quiet, you awful man!"
"Those are chock full of……heady goodness!"
"Sit perfectly still.  Only I may dance."
"He's got me there."
"This isn't a bleeding…splish-splash show."
"Oh you'll pay.  Don't think you won't pay!"
"Why does it have to be zany?"
"I've seen plays that were better than this.  Honest to god, PLAYS!"
"I'd have looked quite the fool.  An April Fool, as it were."
"Why must you turn my office into a house of lies?"
"My Achilles heel, if you will."
"My mom says I'm cool."
"Woo hoo!  Look at that flubber fly!"
"Thank you for coming!  I'll see you in hell!"
"Uh oh, my heart just stopped……..There it goes!"
"Talk to the audience?  Ugh, that's always death."
"Hey there, Blimpy Boy, flying through the sky so fancy free."
"Just...working…the turkey…through."
"Zookeeper, zookeeper!  I think those monkeys are killing each other!"
"I don't think he's coming back."
"Now we're into the dregs."
"I don't use the word 'hero' very often, but you are the greatest hero in American history."
"Shut up, that's why!"
"Well, that just kept going."
"I wasn't really going to kill you.  I was just going to cut you."
"I dunno, Coast Guard?"
"You can see the bind I'm in."
"Sometimes I think you WANT to fail."  "Shut up, just shut up!"
"Oh man, now my pants are chafing me."
"Lies make the baby Jesus cry."
"This is certainly a disturbing universe."
"I like to put my feet up."
"I didn't cry when me own father was hung for stealing a pig, but I'll cry now!"
"And so we enter….endgame."
"Because shut up, that's why!"
"You worked hard, and in a way, you're both winners.  But in another, more accurate way, Barney is the winner."
"I'm cold and there are wolves after me."
"Marge, I'd prefer it if you didn't tell anyone what happened here tonight.  Not for my own sake, but I am so respected, it would hurt the TOWN to hear it.  Good NIGHT!"  (Note: this one has to be delivered with Jon Lovitz's inflections.)
"Well, I have been eating more!"
"Dramatization, may not have happened!"
"With a dry cool wit like that, I could be an action hero."
"I seen her.  That is to say, I saw her."
"I saw her.  That is to say, I seen her."
"Maude, eh?"
"Why is Mr. Smith killing everybody?"
"Oh, I've wasted my life."
"You'd fold like Superman on laundry day."
"My bones are so brittle!  But I always drink plenty of….malk!"
"There's a 4:30 in the morning now?"
Twiddling thumbs, "Doo, doo, do, do doo…"
"Where'd you get that, anyway?"  "Sent away."
"Why you cotton-pickin'….!"
"Yeah, LOOKS like."
"Well Marge, Self-improvement is a passion of mine!"
"I just wanted to entertain!"
"Don't make me run, I'm full of chocolate!"
"Mrs. Pommelhorse?  Hello?  I'd like to get down now."
"Super Nintendo Chalmers!"
"Done and done!"
"It's good….not great."
"Show's over, Shakespeare!"
"Ewww, beta!"
"All right, time for a crime spree!"
"I mean, attempted murder, what is that?"
"Bad babysitting!"
"I'll just hide under a pile of coats and hope that somehow, everything turns out all right."
"Attention, Marge Simpson: we've also arrested your older, balder, fatter son."
"Spring forth burly protector and save me!"
"That's a paddlin'."
"I heartily endorse this event or product."
"Not Souter!"
"I'm Idaho!"
"Bingo bango, sugar in the gas tank."
"Team Discovery Channel!"
"My eyes!  The goggles do nothing!"
"Avert your eyes children, he may change forms!
"Can't…stop….doing…the monkey!
"Up and at them!"
"Hey maw!  Look at the pointy-hair-ded little girl!  G'yuk!"
"If I had a girlfriend, she'd kill me!"
"Grease me up, woman!"
"It was my first and last blackberry schnapps...I was more animal than man!"
"No, come along, Bort!"
"More testicles means more iron."
"Baby, welcome to Dumpsville.  Population: you."
"Nothing can possib-lye go wrong.  Uh, possiBLY go wrong.  Huh, that's the first thing that's ever gone wrong."
"This is getting pretty abstract but yes, I do enjoy my new job at the bowling alley!"
"I can't believe I ate the whole thing."
"When are people going to learn?  Democracy doesn't work!"
"Are you making fun of my auto-mobile?  It's the largest ve-hicle I can afford on my salary."
"Bake him away, toys!"
"Burn that seat."
"Will this be on the exam?"
"'Tis not a man, 'tis a remorseless eating machine!"
"Well, it's like I always say, when you're right 52 percent of the time, you're wrong 48 percent of the time."
"Hired goons."
"Whoa!  I have mustard?"
"Excellent."
"But they're so sweet!"
"Partial credit!"
"Tappa tappa tappa!"
"Yes….now."
"It's still good, it's still good!  It's just a little slimy, it's just a little slimy!"
"Well, I couldn't possible solve this mystery.  Can YOU?"
"Pray for Mojo."
"Run, boy!  Run!  Run for your life….boy!"
"Haw haw!"
"Yes, eat all of our shirts!"
"Okay, I'm going to swing my arms like this, and if you get in the way, it's your own fault."
"Sponge?!  SPONGE?!"
"They have the internet on computers now?"
"That ad had no effect on my whatsoever!"
"Aw, the dank Moe, ya gotta have the dank."
"Fiddle dee dee!  That will require a tetanus shot!"
"Everything's coming up Milhouse!"
"When you get to hell, tell 'em Itchy sent you!"
"So, you like doughnuts, huh?  Well, how about all the doughnuts in the world!"
"Is it about my cube?"
"Yoink!"
"We're through the looking glass, people."
"Stupid babies need the most attention."
"I don't think he's coming back."
"I don't think any of us expected him to say that."
"What in the name of high school football?!"
"HEY BART WANT TO SEE MY NEW CHAINSAW AND HOCKEY MASK?!?!"
"Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos."
"I thought the Generals were due!  C'mon, get the ball!  He's just standing there!….Aw, I think that game was rigged.  They used a freaking ladder."
"Funzo IS dead."
"It's a perfectly cromulent word."
"There's a party in my mouth and everyone's invited!"
"In this house we observe the laws of thermodynamics!"
"Oh, IN THEORY.  In theory, communism works!"
"I've had just about enough of your Vasser-bashing, young lady!"
"Ooh, he card read good."
"We've tried nothing and we're totally out of ideas!"
"I see you've played knifey-spooney before!"
"Marge, I think I hate Ted Koppel!"
"Chow-der?  It's chow-dah!"
"Mono means one.  Rail means rail.  That concludes our extensive three-week course."
"What in the wide wide world of sports?!"
"Silly customer!  You cannot harm a twinkie!"
"According to Webster's Dictionary, a wedding is the removal of weeds from one's garden."
"Riiiight."
"Aw, I'm a livin' joke."
"We like Roy!  We like Roy!"
"I deride your truth-handling abilities, sir!"
"Slow down, tubby!  You're not on the moon yet!"
"Yeah, they really sucked.  They were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked."
"Gotta go, my damn wiener kids are listening."
"I'm a white male, aged 18-49!  Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my ideas may be!"
"Ow, my freakin' ears!"
"I dunno Bart.  My dad's a pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory."
"It's just between you and me, giant hat."
"Maybe it's the beer talking Marge, you've got a butt that just won't quit.  They got these big chewy pretzels here mgjoigshgoij five dollars?  Get outta here."
"Burn that seat."
"Oh no, Willy didn't make it!  And he crushed our boy!"  "Ew, what a mess."
"New glasses?…Probably misses his old glasses."
"Well, it passed the first test.  I didn't go blind."
"Tastes like burning!"
"Shake harder, boy!"
"When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?"
"This lesbian bar doesn't have a fire exit!  Enjoy drinking to your death, ladies!"
"I was born a snake-handler and I'll die a snake-handler."
"No, I'd still rather not."
"Don't encourage the machine!"
"PITT THE ELDER!"  "LORD PALMERSTON!"
"Ned, you so crazy!"
"You have the right to remain silent."  "I choose to waive that right.  BLARRRGH!"
"Hmm, steamed hams!"
"Y'ar, I don't know what I'm doing."
"I have misplaced my pants."
"Not Lenny!"
"Can you believe those clowns in Congress?  What a bunch of clowns."
"It's like a freakin' country bear jambaroo over here!"
"I like how Snrub thinks!"
"Vera said that?"
"I, for one, welcome our insect overlords."
"Man alive!  There are…men alive in here!"
"Wuzzle wozzle?"
"That's just something grownups make up to scare little kids, like the Boogeyman or Michael Jackson."
"Shut uuuuuup."
"What's to be done with this Homer Simpson?"
"Hey, that's not the wallet inspector…."
"Hey, he looks just like you, Poindexter!"
"Glayvin!"
"Ahoy hoy?"
"Here I am, using my legs like a sucker."
"Stan, Stan, he's our boy, if he can't do it no one…..will."
"Law-talking guy!"
"I am so smart!  I am so smart!  S-M-R-T, I mean S-M-A-R-T!"
"I'm just amazed he was able to write so legibly on his own butt."
"Don't you hate pants?"
"So….you like…stuff?"
"I'll see you in hell!…..from heaven."
"Ach!  Ya used me, Skinner!  Ya used me!"
"Wa-ter."  "Be-eer."  "W-A…" "Bay, Eay…."
"I'm a small man, Bart.  A small and petty man."
"He's had it in for me ever since I kinda ran over his dog…Well, replace the word 'kinda' with the word 'repeatedly,' and the word 'dog' with 'son.' "
"Hot stuff, coming through!"
"What's a gime (gym)?  Ohhhh, a gime!"
"Homer Simpsons has powersauced his way to the top of the Murderhorn!"
"Excuse me, you just trailed off there."
"I'll get you Bette Midlerrrrrrrr!"
"What the hell was that?!" -- Krusty after Worker and Parasite
"Homer, I'll be right back…..someone ate my lunch."
"You don't win friends with salad."
"It's Alf!  He's back, in Pog form!"
"That's a specious argument."  "Thank you, honey."
"I know you can read my thoughts, boy.  Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow."
"You've been gallivanting around with that floozy of a bigger brother of yours, haven't you.  Haven't you?!  Look…at…me…!"
"GET THAT CAT OUT OF THE WAY"
"Ah, McGarnigle.  Eases the pain."
"Well, McGarnigle.  Jimmy's dead!  Slit his throat from ear to ear!"  "Hey, I'm trying to eat here!"
"Doh-eth!"
"Tramp-amp-oline!  Tram-bompoline!"
"Oooh, look at me Marge, I'm making people happy! I'm the magical man, from Happy Land, who lives in a gumdrop house on Lollypop Lane!"
"Stupid sexy Flanders."
"I don't get it.  It was non-alcoholic champagne!"
"Here comes the Shaq Attack!"
"NEEERRRRRRDDDD!  Hey buddy, did you get a load of that nerd?!"  "Excuse me?"
"Homer, you have the makeup gun set to whore!"
"Please do not offer my god a peanut."
"Where's your messiah now, Flanders?  Nyah!"
"I warsh mahself with a rag awn a sti-yck."
"He gets results, you stupid chief!"
"Tra la la la, I love my lemon tree!"
"Zinc, come back, zinc!"
"Woo hoo, look at that flubber fly!"
"Mmmm, sacri-licious."
"When I get older, I want to go to Bovine University!"
"Hello Dean?  You are a stupid head!"
"It was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times?  You stupid monkey!"
"To the Beemobile!"  "You mean your Chevy?"  "……yes."
"I can't, it's a Geo!"
"I hate you Walt, freaking, Whitman!  Leaves of Grass, my ass!"
"Remember, we're in the Itchy lot!"
"No hustle either, skip!"
"Not once, not twice, but thrice!"
"I'm using my whole ass!"
"Nobody who speaks German could be an evil man."
"Celebrate good times, come on!"  "I will."
"Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals…except the weasel."
"I can see through time!"
"Boo-urns."
"Stop, stop!  He's already dead!"
"I'm cold and there are wolves after me."
"Ha ha ha, he's right!  We're so lame!"
"You tried your best, and you failed miserably!  The lesson is, never try."
"Oh yeah!" -- Duffman
"Hi, everybody!"
"Woo hoo!"
"It's called playing the percentages.  It's what smart managers do to win ballgames."
"No TV and no beer make Homer something something….Don't mind if I DO!"
"This is certainly a disturbing reality, isn't it?"
"Are you the creator of Hi & Lois?  Because you are making me laugh."
"Look out, Itchy!  He's Irish!"
"Lisa, I want to buy your rock."
"That's it, you people have stood in my way long enough!  I'm going to clown college!"
"This one kid REALLY loves the speedo guy."
"Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?" 
"Yes.  I am in flavour country."
"I'm fired, aren't I?"
"Batman's a scientist."
"I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda."
"Marge, my friend…I haven't learned a thing."
"A pain I know all too well."
"So this is what it feels like…when doves cry!"
"In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!"
"And you, I don't even know who you are, but I'm sure you're a jerk!"
"I don't recall saying 'good luck.' "
"Now this is just between me and you, smashed hat."
"Thank you, door!"
"Soon I'll be the queen of summertime!"
"The cosmic ballet….goes on."
"Not in Paraguay."
"You suck diddly-uck, Flanders!"
"By the end, I thought I was some sort of hummingbird."
"Duhh, stay outta Riverdale!"
"Such a mighty wallop…"
"A pain I know all too well."
"I've had just about enough of your Vasser-bashing, young lady!"
"Queen of the harpies!"
"It's just like the time I could have met Mr. T at the mall. The entire day, I kept saying, 'I'll go a little later, I'll go a little later...' And when I got there, they told me he just left. And when I asked the mall guy if he'll ever come back again, he said he didn't know."


EXTENDED DIALOGUES!
"Seamless!"
"You're fired."
"And with good cause!"

"Hey, Surly only looks out for one guy --- Surly."
"Oh.  Sorry, Surly."
"Shut up."

"But will they just find him, or will they find him and kill him?"
"Well, they'll just…."
"Excuse me, you didn't answer, you just trailed off."
"Yeah…yeah I kind of did trail off, didn't I?"

"Aurora borealis!  In this time of the year, in this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen?!"
"Yes!" 
"….can I see it?" 
"….no."

"Hello, my name is Mr. Burns.  I understand you have a package for me." 
"Okay Mr. Burns, what's your first name?" 
"I….don't….know."

"I have go out to pick up something for dinner."
"Steak?"
"Money's too tight for steak."
"Steak?"
"Uh, sure, steak."

"The doctor said I may have brain damage." 
"Dad, what's the point of this story?" 
"I like stories."

"Can I have one of those Australian giant beers?"
"Something wrong, mate?"
"No…it's pretty big.  I guess."

"I heard there was a murder in New York and they never found who did it." 
"But there are hundreds of unsolved murders in New York." 
"You just don't know when to shut your mouth, do you, Saxy boy?"

"Aw, twenty dollars?  I wanted a peanut!" 
"Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts!" 
"Explain how!" 
"Money can be exchanged for goods and services."

"There's the cannonball guy.  He's cool." 
"Were you being sarcastic?" 
"I don't even know anymore."

"Let the bears pay the bear tax.  I pay the Homer tax!" 
"That's the homeowner tax."
"Well, I'm still outraged."

"So you're saying I'm invincible?" 
"Oh god no, even a stiff breeze could…"
"Invincible!"

"No, pally.  This is Bronson, Missouri." 
"Hey ma, how about some cookies?"
"No dice."
"This ain't over."

"Leave town."
"No."
"Do it!"
"No."
"Come onnn!"
"No."
"I'll be your friend!"
"No."
"Aw, you're mean!"

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Scheduling Proposal

The NBA and NHL regular seasons are both, let’s face it, too long.  When you have 16 teams competing in four rounds of best-of-seven playoff rounds, you don’t need 82 and 84 games (respectively) to determine which 14 teams don’t make the cut.  This six-month grind doesn’t help the quality of play and thus doesn’t give the fans the best value for their entertainment dollar.

The trouble is, the genie is out of the bottle in terms of actually reducing the schedules.  Owners aren’t going to sacrifice even a few games’ worth of revenue, broadcasters would want to renegotiate contracts if they have fewer games to broadcast, players’ unions love the idea of fewer games in general but not if it would come (as it absolutely would) with a demand that salaries are reduced to reflect the smaller revenues.

So what we’re left with is figuring out ways to reduce the grind without actually reducing the number of games.  Hmmm.  While both seasons seem too long to hockey and basketball fans, I’d suggest a modest extension of one single week to the calendar.  Seven measly days isn’t too much to add.  Adding seven days to the front or back end allows for more of a midseason rest for the All-Star break, as well.  By adding seven days, it also allows for more time to slot in their 82/84 games and help bust up those awful scheduling conflicts where a team is playing four games in five nights or something.

I’m hardly the first to suggest such ideas and for all I know, I may not be the first to suggest this next idea as well.  (My researching skills are lousy!)  But it occurs to me that there’s a fairly simple way to reduce the amount of travel that each team in either sport takes.

One of the biggest contributors to “the grind” is the constant travel.  On a road trip, basketball and hockey players each spend usually one day in each city before heading off the next.  Baseball players, in contrast, face even more of a grind by having to fit 162 games into a 180-day window but at least their games are bunched into groups of three and four-game series.  It allows for a bit of time to settle in a new city rather than being on a seemingly never-ending shuttle that doesn’t allow for any practice time.

So my proposal is…why don’t NBA and NHL teams group their road games into a “series”?  The NBA schedule breaks down like this:

* two home games and two road games against your four division opponents (16 games)
* two home games and two road games against six of your 10 conference opponents (24 games)
* two home games and one road game against two of your 10 conference opponents (6 games)
* one home game and two road games against two of your 10 conference opponents (6 games)
* a home-and-home against all 15 teams in the other conference (30 games)

So if you’re the Raptors, you’re making multiple trips to Boston, Brooklyn, New York and Philadelphia every year, not to mention multiple trips to eight of Miami/Washington/Orlando/Atlanta/Charlotte/Detroit/Indiana/Chicago/Milwaukee/Cleveland every year as well.  My question is, why not just group them together?  So if Toronto is going to Atlanta twice, instead of making those trips on December 2 and April 7 (as per this year’s schedule), how about just putting both games within a three-day span.  It gives the road team time to relax in a new city and get some practice time in — coaches always complain that there’s never enough opportunity to practice during the season, so here’s an answer. 

The added cost of putting up players, coaches, team staff, etc. over two days in a hotel isn’t negligible, and while it saves on charter plane expenses, some owners might argue that if they’re paying for a team plane anyway, they might as well use it.  I have no idea if my idea would actually save on travel costs or not, but even if there’s a minor increase, I’d argue it’s worth it in order to keep your players more well-rested.  If your star player develops a bad back from the scheduling grind and can’t live up to his $20 million salary, that’s a larger opportunity cost than a couple of nights’ worth of a hotel bill.

Leagues already make an effort to group road games into geographic blocks — obviously a team going on a west coast road trip will face five or six of those clubs in one big trip rather than have to make multiple visits out west.  What I’d suggest, however, is taking is to the next level and layering the “series” concept onto a road trip. 

This year the Red Wings have two road games each against the Islanders, Rangers and Devils.  Instead of making six separate trips, would it make for sense for the Wings to simply stay in New York for 12-13 straight days and take care of all those games in one fell swoop?  They face the Rangers on two straight nights, then two days off, then back-to-back games with the Islanders, then two more days off, then two more games against the Devils.  They can even stay in one hotel to make the short trip (traffic aside) from Manhattan to Brooklyn to East Rutherford. 

Any situation where you can get teams to take fewer flights, give them more recovery time, etc. must be explored.  Right now you have a situation where NBA teams routinely rest star veteran players when they have a four games-in-five nights scenario on at least two of those dates, and I don’t blame the teams one bit.  The league and its broadcasters get mad since big-time matchups are watered down (i.e. the Spurs resting several veterans for a midseason game against Miami a couple of years ago) but rather than fine the teams, more needs to be done to avoid situations from getting to this point in the first place.

Besides, who wouldn’t want to spend 10 uninterrupted days in New York?  I’m sure Pavel Datsyuk is dying to see “Hamilton.”

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Baby, if you ever wondered...wondered, whatever became of me...I'm living on the air in Cincinnati...Cincinnati, WKRP

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Let The Mystery Be

Big news --- I recently found two more people I know who actually a) know what the 'The Leftovers' is and b) actually enjoy it!  That brings our number up to five!  It's catching on!  Maybe it'd be more popular if they used this version of the theme song rather than the overly nasal, twangy version.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Chip Kelly vs. Charlie Kelly

Compare and contrast!

SIMILARITIES
* Both live in Philadelphia

* Both are constantly coming up with outlandish schemes to help their Philly-based business succeed.

* Charlie is Green Man.  Chip dresses in green clothing.

* Charlie loves the Eagles.  Chip loves the Eagles, though you can be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

* Charlie is illiterate.  Chip needs to use signs on the sideline to communicate his (needlessly complicated) play calls to his players.

* Charlie pines over the Waitress, with no success.  Chip pined over Marcus Mariota, with no success since he couldn’t work out a trade to move up in the draft.

* It’s heavily implied that Charlie’s father is really Frank Reynolds.  But if I had to pick between Charlie and Chip….you be the judge.

* Charlie considers himself an expert in bird law, despite having no legal training whatsoever and “bird law” not actually being a thing.  Chip considers himself an expert in bird coaching, having coached the Philadelphia Eagles to…well, a “bird law” level of success.

* Charlie got Paddy’s Pub ready in whirlwind fashion for a health inspection, with success.  Chip used his fast-paced spread offense at the University Of Oregon, with success.

* Charlie’s favourite hobby is magnets.  Chip’s favourite hobby is trading for injury magnet Sam Bradford.

* Charlie huffs glue on a regular basis.  Chip thought it would be a good idea to have Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez as his quarterbacks.

* Charlie hangs around with Dennis, Mac, Dee and Frank.  Chip employs Riley Cooper.

* Charlie’s favourite food is “milksteak,” which is two good things ruined when put in combination to make an unappetizing mess.  You know, like trying to work out a time split between DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews AND Darren Sproles.


DIFFERENCES…
* Charlie has lasted 11 seasons and counting in Philadelphia.

* Charlie finds pirates hilarious.  Chip probably doesn't find Buccaneers hilarious.

* Charlie didn’t go to college.  Chip has already been to college and will be returning in the next two to 14 months.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Warriors Hat

In the summer of 2011, my pals and I went on our annual baseball road trip, this time hitting the west coast for the first time to visit San Francisco and Oakland.  Despite taking a giant suitcase better suited to a Don Draper metaphor than to a five-day trip, I’d somehow forgotten to pack a hat to protect my bald head from the July sun.  So, while in town, I ducked into a Lids and decided to represent some local flavour by buying a Golden State Warriors ballcap.

The hat fit pretty well in the store, yet after a couple of hours of actual wear, it was clear this thing wasn’t quite big enough for my gigantic melon.  For those of you who have never met me, I’ve basically got a beachball on top of my neck.  Even with the adjustable cap stretched to its limit, I was still getting a headache.  So when I got home, I threw the cap in the backseat of my car and essentially forgot about it for years. 

Fast-forward to around a year ago, when I was cleaning out said car and decided that keeping a Warriors hat in the backseat was kind of silly….especially since I had a couple of fisherman’s hats already there.  What can I say, head protection is a concern when your skull is bereft of hair.  Instead of taking the hat indoors or donating it to Goodwill or doing anything to actually create less clutter, however, I just tossed the cap into my trunk.

Since then….the Warriors have been unbeatable.  They rolled through the 2014-15 regular season.  They ran through the NBA playoffs en route to their first championship in 40 years.  Now, they’re a whopping 14-0 to kick off the current season and appear to be unbeatable short of facing Brock Lesnar in their 22nd game.

I’m not taking ALL the credit for Golden State’s miraculous success, but put it this way.  If you’re a Warriors fan and want to keep the good times rolling, please donate to my “keep the cap in the trunk” Kickstarter.  I’m not calling it sports fan blackmail, but…..well, I guess I just did.  Who knew that all it took to break a 40-year cold streak was putting a hat next to my spare tire? 

Also, who knew my family’s cursed luck with NFL apparel is countered by a 100% success rate at buying NBA apparel?  I buy a Warriors hat and within a few years they’re champions.  My brother buys a Michael Jordan jersey as a teenager and the Bulls win titles from 1996-98.  (Yes, I’m sure THAT was the reason for the second Chicago Bulls dynasty.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Peter Piper's Lies

[Sean Bean meme] One cannot simply pick a peck of pickled peppers.  [/Sean Bean meme]  You can only pickle a pepper after the fact, so while Peter Piper can certainly pick a peck of peppers, there is no earthly way he could pick a peck of pickled peppers.  What, are we supposed to believe that Peter Piper discovered some magical field infused with natural vinegar so the peppers came pre-pickled?

The tongue-twister was right to ask where, exactly, was this peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked.  The answer...none existed.  Peter Piper is a fraud.  Or, keeping with the theme, a pfraud.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Bluegrass Thunderstruck

There are many amazing things about this video, yet the clear #1 is that these guys are from Finland.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

The 2015 TV List

It occurs to me that I never wrote a proper ‘TV year in review’ thing for everything I watched last year when I was doing my alterna-Emmys post.  Better late than never!

Good, but I need to see more of it: iZombie, Halt And Catch Fire, Review.  I’ve only seen a couple episodes of each, so a grade would be incomplete.  It’s rather astounding that a big Veronica Mars fanboy like me is so behind on iZombie but there you have it.

Good, but didn’t grab me: Hannibal, You’re The Worst….there aren’t bad shows by any means, yet after a few episodes, I felt like I just ‘got’ them and didn’t really need to see any more.

Onto the list proper!

THE DREGS
Gotham
Last Man On Earth
Marry Me
Survivor Worlds Apart


MEH TO OKAY
Wet Hot American Summer
Family Guy
The Simpsons
The Amazing Race (S26)
Saturday Night Live
Rectify
Portlandia
Modern Family


OKAY TO QUITE GOOD
The Amazing Race (S25)
Mike Tyson Mysteries
Black-ish
Brooklyn Nine Nine
The UK Apprentice
Survivor San Juan Del Sur (S29)
The Amazing Race Canada (S3)
Community
The Leftovers
Agent Carter
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Parks & Recreation
Orange Is The New Black
The Fall
Game Of Thrones
The Americans
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


THE BEST OF THE BEST
9. Mad Men
8. Daredevil
7. New Girl
6. Better Call Saul
5. Garfunkel & Oates
4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
3. Silicon Valley
2. Nathan For You
1. Veep

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Del Preston

"And there I am in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at three o' clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&M's to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn't go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops 'is 'ead 'round the door and mentions there's a little sweetshop on the edge of town. So, we go, and...it's closed. So there's me and Keith Moon and David Crosby breaking into this little sweetshop right? Well, instead of a guard dog, they've got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. Well, I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shopowner and his son, that's a different story altogether.  I 'ad to beat them to death with their own shoes...nasty business, really.  But sure enough, I got the M&M's and Ozzy went on stage and did a GREAT show."

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Goodbye Grantland

Once Bill Simmons and ESPN parted in such ugly fashion, you knew it was only a matter of time before Grantland was closed down.  Sure enough, after a respectable six-month wait period, the axe finally fell on the big G on Friday, though apparently it came with so little warning that pretty much all of the staff heard the news via Twitter.

It's an unfortunate ending to a site that I've visited virtually every day for the last four years.  Obviously the lure of "Bill Simmons' new site" got me in the door, but what kept me there was the sheer volume of talent on board.  Consider that Simmons himself wrote (maybe) one column a week and a few podcasts...the other 98% of content was generated by an incredible staff of writers that produced loads of quality material.  My "other people's writing" blog feature has been more or less a "here's what I really liked on Grantland last month" highlight reel for years.  In its heyday, the site was cranking out multiple long-form articles about a wide range of topics every DAY, all of which were worth reading and ranged from very good to instantly-forward-to-your-friends great. 

My internet reading time has been literally just about cut in half.  What am I going to do?  Spend less time on the computer?  Go outside?  Talk to people?!  The mind boggles.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Every Sports Presser

Having been to more than a few of these press conferences, this is rather accurate.  Weird Al in that wig = Pete Carroll doppelganger?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

NBA Predictions

As always, the starred teams are the ones making the playoffs.  Teams without stars who aren’t leading the divisions?  Stay with me here…they’re the ones who will miss the playoffs.  There will be a test later.

Southeast Division: Hawks, Wizards*, Heat*, Magic, Hornets
You could talk me into any of the top three finishing in any order and I’d believe it.  I guess I have my order based on Miami resting enough of their old dudes to settle for just a playoff spot while Atlanta and Washington duke it out for the top spot.  Orlando seems to be trending up but is still at least a year away.  Charlotte is going to be so bad offensively that Michael Jordan could un-retire and still be the leading scorer.  (There is probably a 25-1 chance of this actually happening.)

Central Division: Cavaliers, Bucks*, Bulls*, Pacers*, Pistons
That’s right, a four-playoff team division.  Cleveland will be half-assing it all regular season as Love and Irving ease back from injuries and LeBron stays fresh for the playoffs, yet they’ll still coast into first place.  Milwaukee is on the way up, and I think Jason Kidd is a good enough coach to prevent a letdown.  The Bulls, however, are the team I do see having a bit of a letdown in the post-Thibodeau era.  Indiana vaults back into the playoffs thanks to Paul George’s full-on return, while Detroit apparently still has a team.  Good for them.

Atlantic Division: Raptors, Celtics, Knicks, Nets, 76ers
Now HERE is a truly awful Eastern Conference division.  Toronto wins by default, and Boston will be pretty frisky and narrowly miss out on an eighth seed.  The Knicks are overrated as usual and will be terrible.  Brooklyn and Philly speak for themselves as the definition of awful.

Southwest Division: Rockets, Spurs*, Grizzlies*, Pelicans*, Mavericks
What a nasty division.  Dallas isn’t even THAT bad but they’re doomed for the basement in this horrorshow.  Houston wins and is overly proud of a division title, San Antonio doesn’t win the division since they don’t really care and are just staying healthy for the playoffs.  (OR maybe they do put more emphasis on home-court this year given how they got kinda hosed by that first-round Clippers matchup last season.)  Memphis is good again but the cracks are showing in this era and Anthony Davis again single-handedly leads a blah team to a postseason spot.

Pacific Division: Warriors, Clippers*, Kings, Suns, Lakers
Seriously, people think Golden State got ‘lucky’?  That’s the narrative?  People are idiots.  They easily repeat.  The Clippers have their usual good regular season then flop in the playoffs.  Sacramento is going to be a hilarious yet oddly dangerous mess.  Phoenix may just be a mess.  The number of Kobe Bryant tweets that directly call out a teammate will double the number of Lakers wins this season.

Northwest Division: Thunder, Jazz*, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Nuggets
Yikes, what a lousy division.  Oklahoma City roars back to respectability even if Durant is only at 70%.  It’s due to this weak division that I see Utah speaking into the eighth spot, and also in no small part because “The Stifle Tower” is one of my all-time favourite sports nicknames.  I really wanted to pick Minnesota as a playoff team since it would be a great feel-good tribute to the late Flip Saunders, but Wiggins/Towns and company are still probably a year away.  Portland actually might’ve had a shot at the title last year had Wes Matthews not gotten hurt and now the franchise has fallen apart.  Denver = terrible.

POSTSEASON
Hawks over Pacers, Cavaliers over Bulls, Wizards over Bucks, Heat over Raptors
Warriors over Jazz, Thunder over Pelicans, Rockets over Grizzlies, Spurs over Clippers (“Oh come on!” yells Gregg Popovich)

Hawks over Heat, Cavaliers over Wizards, Spurs over Warriors, Thunder over Rockets

Cavaliers over Hawks, Spurs over Thunder

Spurs over Cavaliers

Yeah, I’m picking San Antonio again.  Ring #6 for Tim and Pops, ring #1 for LaMarcus Aldridge, who’s the Commander Riker of the next generation of the Spurs dynasty (Kawhi Leonard is Captain Picard, naturally).  The poor city of Cleveland takes one on the chin sports-wise yet again. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Pagans In Vegas

I have a bad feeling I may have jumped onto the Metric bandwagon just as they’ve started making music I don’t like.  Over the course of their first four albums, Metric were slowly morphing from alt-rock to dance rock, and now that they’ve hit “Pagans In Vegas,” the transformation is more or less complete.  There’s nothing wrong with dance rock in and of itself, of course, but Metric’s habit of putting half-decent melodies behind an increasing wall of electronica becomes tiresome after an entire album.

Highlights!
* I’ve come around on ‘The Shade,’ as I like it a lot more than I did when it was first released months ago.  In fairness, since this is one of the more electronica-tinged tracks on the record, it’s possible I could come around on the entire album itself once I hear it more than twice.
* “Fortunes” is probably my favourite track at the moment, though the little beeps-and-boops opening is annoying.  I’ve noticed that Metric, on this album particularly, is fond of having verses and choruses that don’t really sound at all alike aside from (maybe) being in the same key; it’s like they just write them all separately and then just jam one of each together to make a song out of it.  “Fortunes” is a particular example of this, and it works.

Lowlights!
* The two-part instrumental (“The Face”) that ends the album is very pointless indeed.
* If I never hear some variation of “cover of your magazine” as a lyric in any song (Metric or otherwise) ever again, I’ll die a happy man.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Force Awakens

"Hi Mark, this is The Internet."
"Wait, what?  'The Internet'?  Like, the entire world wide web?"
"Ugh, nobody's called me the 'world wide web' in years.  Get with it.  Anyways, it's come to my attention that you haven't posted the new Star Wars trailer on your blog."
"Nah, I'm not a big Star Wars guy.  I enjoyed the original movies but didn't capital-L Love them or anything, and while I'm surely interested in the new film, it's not a big..."
"Post.  The.  Trailer."
"Can't I..."
"Post.  The.  Trailer.  This isn't negotiable.  Don't you want to be like every other blog on me?"
"I like to think of myself as an iconoclast."
"In a way, you are.  Most blogs are updated regularly with interesting content, so yours definitely breaks that mold."
"Low blow."
"C'mon, you thought The Internet wouldn't be snarky?"


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Just Not Ready



They’re going to be teaching units on this commercial in Canadian political science courses for years to come, but for future students who wants a cliff notes version, here are the biggest issues with this infamous campaign ad and the many ways in which the Conservatives shot themselves in the foot…

* the “hiring committee looking at resumes” gimmick already got the Conservatives off on a bad rhetorical foot.  In theory, the ad was supposed to simplify the election to basic terms, asking voters to judge Justin Trudeau by the same basis as one would judge someone applying for a job at their company.  The problem is…doesn’t a hiring committee imply that, y’know, there’s a job vacancy?  Most companies don’t have a person in place they’re satisfied with and go headhunting anyway.  So even the Conservative Party’s own commercials are subtly saying that Stephen Harper has been a subpar “employee.”

* also, this hiring committee is the most focus the Conservatives have given to jobs in nine years.  Hey-o!

* years ago, the Conservatives decided that their best line of attack against Trudeau was that he was an inexperienced semi-airhead who would be completely overmatched as prime minister.  This led to literally hundreds of attack ads pushing this message, focusing on Trudeau’s “lack” of job experience as “only” a former teacher (which also had the side effect of once again throwing teachers, a noted Conservative enemy, under the bus), taking single sentences out of context from larger speeches that purportedly showed Trudeau making naive statements (i.e. “the budget will balance itself”) or even the goofier soft-focus ads trying to paint him as a celebrity running on his family name.  Let’s pause on that family name point for a second.  The vast majority of Conservative attack ads didn’t go after Justin Trudeau — they went after “Justin,” often omitting his last name entirely.  It was a branding exercise meant to again infantilize a grown man, and also to separate him from the Trudeau legacy (which obviously still resonated with voters in Quebec and Ontario).

Now, the Conservatives may have realized that year after year of attack ads would perhaps come off as harsh, so in trying to either somewhat soften their message or deliver a patronizing back-handed compliment, they undermined their entire line of questioning.  Trudeau wasn’t “just not capable of being PM,” but rather “just not ready.”  If you’re cooking a roast and it’s “just not ready,” that means it WILL be ready at some point in the future, it’s just a matter of when it fits your taste.

As we saw, Canada was clearly eager to get the dinner table.  The Liberals cannily turned the “not ready” message around in their own advertising, so the election essentially became a referendum on whether or not Justin Trudeau was capable.  (Others have also noted that the fact that Harper still had to rely primarily on anti-opponent messaging rather than run on his own record after NINE YEARS as prime minister might’ve also done quite a bit to undermine voter confidence.)

I kind of roll my eyes a bit at the “Canada’s natural party” line about the Liberals, yet there may be at least something to it.  Harper rose to power by catching the Liberal Party in a downswing when they had a) Paul Martin stuck holding the bag after years of Jean Chretien-centric scandals, when Chretien himself was teflon in voters’ eyes, b) consecutive party leaders in Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff who were, frankly, total stiffs in voters’ eyes and c) Jack Layton as the opponent on the left, as Layton’s personal popularity (not, markedly, the popularity of the NDP as a whole) split the left-leaning electorate to such as extent that Harper and the united Conservative Party even snuck a majority in 2011 despite three-fifths of the country hating their guts. 

This election, however, the Liberals put forward a leader who wasn’t a stiff.  Ironically, the Conservatives had lowered the bar for Trudeau’s ability so much via those attack ads that he was able to easily exceed expectations in debates, interviews, speeches, etc.  Once voters saw that he wasn’t nearly the dupe portrayed in the Conservatives’ commercials, he won a lot of people over.

Time will tell if Trudeau will prove to be an effective prime minister, or if it will become apparent that he was only elected by dint of “not being Stephen Harper.”  I guess those people on the hiring committee probably should’ve put more thought into what their bosses (i.e. the Canadian people) thought about the candidates.

Also, I can’t help but think that Canadians voted Liberal in part because they were SO ALL-FIRING SICK of these commercials running ad nauseam for years.  Flooding the airwaves can work, but it can also lead to soaking wet and angry voters wanting to punish those who busted the pipes.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Other People's Writing

* In my favourite piece of the bunch, we get the real-life story of Maggie Goldenberger, a.k.a. the “Ermahgerd” internet meme girl, is told by Vanity Fair’s Darryn King.  I love that R.L. Stine is constantly asked about this meme and that it seems to annoy the hell out of him.

* The top 10 prisoners in movie history are ranked by Grantland’s comedy duo of Shea Serrano and Jason Concepcion.  This list had me from the opening paragraph, which describes “Death Warrant,” a heretofore unknown movie to me where Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a Mountie!  Suddenly I want a JCVD remake of Due South in the worst possible way.  As for the list itself, it’s hard to argue with their top choice, though Sly Stallone merited at least a top-three for the sheer volume of captives he’s played over the course of his long career.  There’s also a mention of “Ernest Goes To Jail,” and I kid you not, I actually had a lengthy conversation about the Ernest movies last weekend.  Like, a group of intelligent people discussing Ernest for a good 15-20 minutes here in the year 2015.  Our final conclusion was that Jim Varney was basically the modern Olivier.

* Cris Collinsworth is probably the best football analyst working today and even more probably the best on TV, and Grantland’s Bryan Curtis both profiles him and looks at his process in preparing to call a game.

* A little background is necessary for this one.  John Teti, of the Onion’s AV Club, has a podcast where he discusses pop culture with his mother.  Last year they discussed “Nathan For You” and Mrs. Teti was not a fan.  Fast-forward to now, when Teti is interviewing Nathan Fielder about the upcoming season of his show and Fielder proposes that “rather than a typical interview, Fielder wanted me to moderate a conversation between him and my mom. His goal: convince Mom to like him.”  Here’s the result.  Nathan Fielder may be a genius. 

* A “here’s how the sausage is made” story about the modern music industry (or, really, the music industry for all time) by The Atlantic’s Nathaniel Rich, which essentially just points out the fact that pretty much every pop star is a complete creation of record labels.  Maybe I can use this article as consolation when U2 takes years upon years to release a new album; if U2 weren’t “real artists” who wrote the songs themselves, they could just have a team of writers cranking out new hits for them on an annual basis.  The view is nice from up here on my high horse!

* The unreal seventh inning of Game Five of the Rangers/Blue Jays series is recapped by Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur.  It's as glorious as the inning itself.  (Your opinion may vary if you hail from Texas.) 

* A celebration of Law & Order on its 25-year anniversary, from Grantland’s Charles Pierce.  My introduction to Law & Order came during a trip to Montreal with my friends in 2001.  In theory, it was four young guys partying it up in an exciting city for four days — in reality, it was sleeping in until noon every day, then watching Law & Order reruns on A&E until mid-afternoon then going to an Expos game at night and being in bed by midnightish.  Party people!  Anyway, there may be no more perfect procedural than L&O from about 1991-2000, and it can be argued that this run more or less invented the modern procedural show that dominates the ratings in so many forms (CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds, etc.) today.  You can’t ask for more than a best-of-both-worlds format that allows it to be both a cop show AND a lawyer show, which is essentially network catnip.  Pierce is also dead-on with his ultimate L&O cast — McCoy, Kincaid, Schiff, Briscoe, Logan, Van Buren is hard to argue, as much as I feel Ben Stone is still a vastly underrated figure in the Law & Order universe — and his picks as the ultimate tertiary characters.  When Lorraine Toussaint appeared on “Orange Is The New Black” last season, I was excited from the get-go since that was Shambala Green, man!  You knew business was about to pick up.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Sudden Departure

Happy Departure Day, everyone!  If we happen to get another one today and another 2% of the world's population vanishes, well, it was nice knowing you.  Or, if I'm one of the 2%, it was also...uh, nice knowing you?  I drink two percent milk, so that's probably a bad omen.

I realize that "The Leftovers" won't actually investigate what caused the Sudden Departure since what answer could possibly be satisfying without making the show vaguely silly (or, at least from its present vaguely silly state to flat-out goofy) and because Damon Lindelof isn't nearly foolish enough to wrap another of his shows up in another vast unanswerable question.  Still, I kind of wish the show more often explored the effect that the Departure had on the world at large rather than focus so directly on the Garveys.  (And, this season, the Murphys.)  It's not a surprise that "Guest," widely regarded as the best Leftovers episode of the first season, is also the one that took a broader scope of Departure-related matters.

Ratings for the show aren't great, so you probably need some background.  The Sudden Departure is the name given to the event on October 14, 2011, when two percent of the world's population just vanished into thin air.  No flash of light, no puff of smoke, no clothes left behind, they were just gone.  Humanity, as you might expect, went a little nuts over this.  Frankly, one of the show's flaws is that it was set just three years after the Sudden Departure and things are more or less running normally on the surface --- if a Departure happened in real life, I highly suspect it would be the end of the world as we know it.  Earth would devolve into total chaos and even if it was painstakingly rebuilt, it would take way more than three years.  It would probably take more than three years just to figure out the scope of the Departure, in fact.

"The Leftovers" frames this particular event as inexplicable, yet also not completely alien to how we grieve in the face of other disasters --- natural disasters, terrorist attacks, plagues, etc.  It's just that in making the tragedy so singularly bizarre and then never explaining it, the viewer focuses only on grief for grief's sake.  You can make a case that Lindelof is now running the show that should've been called 'Lost' and his old show sould've been the one called 'The Leftovers,' but such is life.

Anyway, let's hope nobody vanishes today.  I'd rather not have to constantly refresh my Facebook feed for hours on end.