Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Troilus & Cressida (Shakespeare Re-Read #15)

The Trojan War is perhaps the most widely-told of all mythological tales, as the battle between Greece and Troy over Helen’s “face that launched a thousand ships” has been chronicled in one form or another by literally every artistic medium of the last 2000 years.  What makes Shakespeare’s take on the Trojan War in "Troilus & Cressida" rather unique is that he makes this most epic of tales so completely mundane.  He includes none of the pageantry commonly associated with the Trojan War (the gods, goddesses, superhuman feats, etc.) and instead makes it just a war.  And not just any war — a war fought over, essentially, a domestic dispute that ends up costing thousands of lives.

Seen as a satire of war in general, and an argument that for all the glory that men associate with battle (something Shakespeare himself is guilty of on more than a few occasions) it’s ultimately innocent lives being lost over a political disagreement, T&C is a pretty interesting play.  Interesting to discuss, that is; reading it is a different story, as the actual text is rather dry and meandering.  I’m sure you could have quite a keen English class discussion about the concept here, yet scene after scene of petty in-fighting amongst the Greek side, subplots that go nowhere, the actual title plot ultimately going nowhere, and just an overall feeling of ennui within the story doesn’t make for a great read.

Let’s start with that title plot, which has to be one of the most underdeveloped* of any in Shakespeare’s canon.  Troilus and Cressida have to be right up there with Cymbeline as the title characters who have the least to do in their named plays.  I guess it was simply the convention of the time for Shakespeare to call it “The Tragedy of Troilus & Cressida” or whatever rather than some ironic title like, oh, I dunno, “The Trojan War Was Very Silly Indeed.”

* = underdeveloped, but not uninteresting.  There’s an alternate reality where Shakespeare focuses more on Troilus and Cressida’s story and puts the feuding Trojans and Greeks on the backburner, and it makes for a much stronger play.

In theory, the title might tie into the overall theme — rather than some heroic title, or even “Achilles” or “Ajax vs. Hector,” Shakespeare ignores the war and the major mythic personages to focus on two fairly minor personalities.  If you’re asking what’s the point of naming the play about the Trojan War over this minor romantic melodrama, consider that big-picture, the entire war was over a minor romantic melodrama.

And make no mistake, Shakespeare considers the Helen/Paris/Menelaus love triangle to be a trifle.  Menelaus (the King Of Sparta himself!) is barely even in the play, and Helen herself only appears in one scene, that little bit of bawdiness with Paris and Pandarus.  That’s right, the legendary Helen Of Troy is essentially a bit part.  It’s essentially Shakespeare reducing her to an Ann Veal-esque “her?”  Apparently some productions over the years have played with this scene by casting Helen as a man in drag, or really uglying up the actress in the role to drive home the point that the Trojan War was fought over thoroughly minor reasons.  (Though this type of casting undercuts Shakespeare’s point; it’s implying that if Helen really was a true knockout, then the war would’ve been “worth it” or something.)

It’s worth nothing that Helen’s only scene comes directly after the debate in Act II, Scene ii when Priam and his sons are debating whether or not the war should continue.  Paris and Troilus “win” the argument under the always-stupid “well, we’ve fought this long already, so it would truly be pointless if we gave up now” reasoning.  Their point is immediately undercut by the goofiness of the Helen scene, making Shakespeare’s opinion pretty clear.  Everything here is just “still wars and lechery, nothing else holds fashion,” as Thersites* puts it in Act V, Scene ii.

* = between Broadchurch, Game Of Thrones and the Harry Potter movies, I absolutely pictured David “Walder Frey” Bradley in my head during all of Thersites’ lines.

So you have Helen brought low, making her par for the course with the rest of the legendary figures within the play.  Achilles isn’t a legendary warrior, but instead just a petulant egomaniac.  Ajax is indeed portrayed as a quality warrior, though an easily-manipulated meathead (who also has a healthy ego on him).  Again, Shakespeare isn’t interested in ascribing any traditional valor to these famous names — in the heat of the moment, they’re just a flock of petty squabblers.  It’s the characters themselves who are obsessed with preserving their honour and nobility, as in the case of the Ajax/Hector duel, which is presented less as a major moment in a blood feud of a war than an exhibition at a county fair.  What’s built up as the major plot point in the narrative just fizzles into an unsatisfying draw and then a bunch of courteous banquets and back-slapping like something was actually accomplished by either warrior.

It’s a weird coincidence that I read T&C just after Cymbeline in this series, as the plays share a lot of similarities.  First time I’d read either, I knew nothing about either play going in, both have title characters with pretty minor roles, and both are sprawling “historical” epics (though in Cymbeline’s case, it’s Shakespeare wholly inventing a fanciful tale with no regard for the actual history of the people he uses as characters, whereas in T&C he takes completely fictional characters and portrays them in a more realistic light).  I loved Cymbeline, however, since it was so unapologetic in being over-the-top.  By remaining so insular and bitter, conversely, T&C is a hard play to like.  You can maybe admire it, yet Shakespeare goes a long way to make a pretty basic point.



15. Pericles
14. The Taming Of The Shrew
13. Antony & Cleopatra
12. Troilus & Cressida
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 goddamn 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, April 25, 2015


I don’t usually say this about movies, but “While We’re Young” would’ve benefited from a lot less plot.  To cite one of Noah Baumbach’s past films, “Frances Ha” didn’t really have much of a story but it was excellent simply because it perfectly nailed the vibe of following a somewhat aimless twentysomething hipster  In WWY, the movie is at its best when it’s following the middle-aged Stiller/Watts couple as they observe and try to emulate the twentysomething Driver/Seyfried hipster couple.  What the film doesn’t need is the weirdly melodramatic and ultimately meaningless subplot about, of all things, the ethics of documentary filmmaking.  I know that point of said subplot is that it isn’t *really* supposed to have a point (Stiller is just overreacting, and we all play along since it’s so easy to believe that any Adam Driver character is a phone douchebag) but still, it’s not interesting.  It takes the movie on a sharp downhill curve after a very promising opening half carried by Stiller and Watts being hilarious.


On the flipside, for the love of god, “Last Man On Earth” needs some plot, any plot, that’s a change from the already ultra-tired trope of Phil being upset and jealous over not being able to sleep with Melissa.  In fairness, I haven’t watched the last couple of episodes…though I’m not going to, since I’m out on the show.  Why should I waste any more time on this program?  Mark’s got too much else to watch, son. 

It’s also not cool how quickly the show sold out its premise, as we only got about 30 minutes of Phil as “the last man on earth” before others started showing up, and now we have a four-person ensemble.  What was so intriguing about the pilot (and even the next two eps) was that it was actually taking a comic but semi-realistic look at how a person actually would last if they were completely alone in the modern world.  Things were difficult for Phil; it took him a hell of a time to fix up some kind of basic water system in the second episode, for instance.  By the fourth ep, however, you already have him rigging up elaborate fireworks displays for Melissa off-screen.  Way to be lazy, show.

I was a big fan of Will Forte on SNL, something my friend Matt couldn’t believe since, to use his words, “every Forte character is just him saying something over and over again in a silly voice.”  While I didn’t think that was true at all on SNL (well, except for the “oh nooooo!’ guy), it’s actually ended up being true on LMOE.  Nothing is less funny to me than when Phil is trying to hide something or manipulate someone and he puts on his disingenuous voice.  When this happens for essentially four straight episodes, I’m out.


“The Americans” had a pretty odd season in that I wasn’t interested in virtually all of the new subplots introduced, yet I was still pretty entertained because a) the show is just that well-made and b) the show cashed in two of its most long-running mysteries.  All year long it seemed like “Americans” was sort of just checking off the boxes on the current events of 1982-83 and giving their take on them through the lens of the Jennings’ work — the new South African KGB recruit and apartheid, the Afghan conflict, Northrop developing stealth technology, etc.  Then you had regular supporting characters given either not much to do, or put into new and fairly uninteresting new circumstances.  For instance, Stan Beeman is a great character but I don’t really care about him moping around in the aftermath of a divorce and going to EST meetings.  It seemed like the show almost ground to a halt in midseason with the whole meandering plot about Phillip being disturbed by having to seduce a 16-year-old.

But all of this didn’t matter, since we finally got to the fireworks factory with Martha figuring out that “Clark” was a fraud and (even bigger) Paige finding out the truth about her parents.  That last one led to the insanely suspenseful last 10 minutes of the finale, with the major cliffhanger of the cat being semi-out of the bag.  I have to give it up to the actor who plays Pastor Tim; we have no reason to believe Tim is anything but a decent man, yet he’s played with *just* enough of a hint of sketchiness to make us want to see Phillip and Elizabeth ruin him.  Personally, I prefer the online theory that Pastor Tim is actually a sleeper agent himself and has been working as part of Directorate S’s second-generation plan to recruit Paige all along…that would be an incredible twist.  I almost think something like that has to happen since it seems way too early in the show for either Pastor Tim to alert the authorities or for the Jenningses to kill him (which would alienate Paige from them forever).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Daily Simpsons Dialogue, Addendum #6

Well, okay, it doesn't actually begin.  We're actually in the seventh installment of this crazy journey, and I've created a few 'Simpsons Dialogue' label for you in the right column to check on the past entries.  (Am I now officially too lazy to cut-and-paste the older links every time?  Yes.  Yes I am.)

"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!"
“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.”

"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?"

Friday, April 17, 2015

NBA Playoff Predictions

The NBA seemingly had a lot more “anyone can win” drama than ever before this season.  As we enter the playoffs, however, the field has narrowed down to the usual collection of 2-3 teams that look like legit title favourites, 5-6 teams that would be surprises if they won it all, and eight teams who would be among the most unlikely championship teams in any sport ever if they went on a crazy Cinderella run.  (Fun fact: five of these teams play in the horrible Eastern Conference.)

* Golden State over New Orleans in five
Then again, maybe the “anyone can win” stuff was overstated since the Warriors have been destroying teams all year.  It’s just that since they’re still unproven in the postseason, people are holding off crowning them as the major favourites.  The Warriors shouldn’t have too much trouble in the first round, though Anthony Davis is great enough to steal at least one game by himself.

* Memphis over Portland in six
In the tough Western Conference, the closest thing to an ‘easy draw’ was the fifth seed, since it meant that you’d be matching up against the injury-decimated Trail Blazers (who were locked into the #4 seed since they won their division.)  Memphis was doubly lucky since they’re pretty banged-up themselves, so this series should provide them a chance to rest up before facing G-State.

* San Antonio over Los Angeles in six
I simply can’t pick the proven losers over the proven winners.  I also simply can’t pick one of the deepest and most versatile rosters in the league over a team with an excellent starting five and then a 76ers-quality bench.  I also simply can’t pick against Tim Duncan in the first round, and possibly not at all since he’s the man.

* Dallas over Houston in seven
Here’s my upset special of the first round.  Rick Carlisle is a good enough coach that I think he’ll find a way to outflank Houston’s free throws-and-threes strategy; the only question is if the shaky Mavericks have the talent to actually do it.  Both these teams hate each other, they know each other well, so this one goes the full seven bruising games.

* Cleveland over Boston in five
This is as good a place as any for the annual game of ‘how many West teams would win the Eastern Conference?’  The difference here is that the Cavaliers actually are pretty good, and the Hawks can win a lot of matchups.  My take is that Golden State and San Antonio beat everyone, Houston is a tossup, Clippers are a tossup leaning towards losing to both, Memphis I actually think beats Cleveland but is 50-50 against Atlanta and…that’s it!  Hey, there are three whole Western Conference playoff teams I don’t think could win the East!  That’s a start!  Of course, the real test between the two conferences would be to ask ‘how many East teams make the playoffs if they’re in the West,’ and really, I’d only be confident in Atlanta, Cleveland and Chicago.  The West is still the best.

* Chicago over Milwaukee in six
Part of me wanted to pick the Bucks since they’ve got a lot of good young talent, ’Fear The Deer’ is fun to write, and I’m naturally predisposed to pick any team from Wisconsin over any team from Chicago in a playoff scenario.  That said, the Bulls are clearly the better team, so I won’t get silly.  If Jay Cutler suddenly starts playing point guard for the Bulls, all bets are off.

* Toronto over Washington in seven
Weird matchup here before two teams who were red-hot in the first two months of the season and have basically played like garbage ever since.  Any result here wouldn’t shock me, and you can’t help but wonder if both franchises would actually be better off with a loss — a first-round exit gives the Wizards an excuse to fire their coach, and in the Raptors’ case, you wonder if they’d explore firing Casey or overhauling the roster.  The difference is that with John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards’ have a potential ceiling of a championship with a few more pieces and a good coach in place; even if the Raptors are firing on all cylinders, you’re not going to win a title with Kyle Lowry as your best player.  On the plus side, the winner of this series gets to avoid facing the Cavaliers until the East finals.  Not that Atlanta isn’t a heavy favourite over either, but at least there’s a slim chance the Raptors could upset the Hawks, whereas Cleveland would probably sweep them.

* Atlanta over Brooklyn in five
I’m being generous with the five, just because the Hawks have a few injuries to deal with.  I’m hoping it’s a sweep just to enforce Brooklyn’s candidacy as maybe the worst playoff team of all time.

* Golden State over Memphis in six
* San Antonio over Dallas in seven
* Cleveland over Chicago in seven
* Atlanta over Toronto in five

* San Antonio over Golden State in seven
* Cleveland over Atlanta in six

NBA Finals: Spurs over Cavaliers in six.  I simply can’t pick against the champs the way they’re playing right now.  It would also be kind of ironically fitting if LeBron makes his big return to Cleveland only to again lose to the Spurs in the Finals (though his team will make it much closer than they did in 2007).  Duncan and Popovich get their sixth rings and I thoroughly win an argument with my friend Malcolm due to his ridiculous “I would rather have Kyrie Irving than Kawhi Leonard” stance.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stanley Cup Predictions

* Ducks over Jets (7): This series has seven games written all over it, and it’s written in chalk.  Anaheim will win all four of their home games but the Jets will win their three home games since there is no doubt the Winnipeg fans will be going absolutely nuts at their first taste of playoff hockey in almost two decades.  A Jets upset wouldn’t really surprise me at all, and not just because of the home-ice thing; Anaheim was middle of the pack in Corsi percentage while Winnipeg was top-eight.

* Flames over Canucks (6): Well, why not.  Nothing Calgary has done over the last six months has made any logical sense, so they might as well steal a playoff round while they’re at it.  It helps the Flames that they’re facing a pretty meh opponent in Vancouver, to boot.

* Blues over Wild (7): Many folks are picking this as the obligatory first-round upset, though I’m zigging while others are zagging and picking St. Louis to indeed win, albeit in a seven-gamer.  I realize that picking STL against a) the theory of goaltending momentum, b) the Blues’ long and proud tradition of playoff choking, c) my personal enjoyment of the state of Minnesota, and d) the Wild’s awesome deep green alternate jerseys.  I’m going to stop listing reasons before I decide to change my pick.

* Blackhawks over Predators (6): This one’s kind of a tossup, though in the end, I’m bowing to Chicago’s vast playoff experience.  I did pick them to win the Cup in preseason (under the “flip a coin between the Hawks and Kings” logic) so the least I can do is predict them to take a round.  For Predators fan, you can take consolation in the fact that my parents recently visited Nashville and enjoyed the city, so really, isn’t that worth so much more than a measly Stanley Cup?

* Senators over Canadiens (7): Aha, now THIS is my first-round upset.  Montreal is a borderline playoff team that owns a top seed by dint of the fact that Carey Price played like a boss for six months and is going to win the Hart and Vezina with ease.  If Price’s play dips even a bit, the Canadiens are in big trouble, and lo and behold, they happen to be matched up against a team with another red-hot goaltender in the awesomely-nicknamed Andrew “Hamburglar” Hammond.  This is where I see Ottawa’s stunning Cinderella run continue, and Habs fans continuing to complain about their not winning a Cup since 1993.  (As a Leafs fan, cry me a river.)

* Lightning over Red Wings (5): Steve Yzerman is so beloved in Detroit that his team is going to roll over the Wings and the city won’t even be mad.  I may be underrating the Red Wings’ chances here, though part of me is hoping that a first-round blowout loss will inspire Mike Babcock to leave and join the Leafs.  Then the Leafs will win the draft lottery for McDavid.  Then Borje Salming and Daryl Sittler will announce that they discovered the fountain of youth while on a fishing trip and are coming out of retirement.  #PipeDreams

* Rangers over Penguins (5): More fun with Corsi statistics, as Pittsburgh finished fifth in the league while New York was only 20th.  This is a case where the numbers don’t reflect how the Penguins have absolutely staggered across the finish line, however.  It’s possible Crosby and company could quickly discover what ails them, but it’s probably a better bet that the Rangers advance without much trouble.

* Capitals over Islanders (7): Probably the biggest tossup of the first round.  There’s a certain dramatic aspect to picking the Isles in their last season on Long Island and so it sets up a wonderful New York/New York rivalry series in the second round, but that’s just too easy.  Washington plays yet another seven-game series against a New York team but this time comes out on the winning side.

* Ducks over Flames (6)
* Blackhawks over Blues (6)
* Lightning over Senators (6)
* Capitals over Rangers (7)

* Blackhawks over Ducks (6)
* Lightning over Capitals (5)

* Lightning over Blackhawks in six games to win the Stanley Cup.  Is this just me hedging on my preseason pick?  You bet!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Game Of Thronez!

Is anyone else fired up for the Game Of Thrones season premiere tonight?  Oh, everyone in the world is?  Excellent!  In honour of all the GoT get-togethers taking place, here's a peek at Seth Meyers inviting life-of-the-party Jon Snow over for dinner with friends.  The crazy thing is, amongst the GoT characters, there are literally 60-70 far worse choices than Snow as a dinner guest.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Illogical Insults

Why is "I'll fix your wagon!" a threat?  If I had a broken wagon, I'd really appreciate if someone fixed it.  Is the angry person implying that they'll do a shoddy repair job?  Even if this was the case, they're still wasting their own time just by half-assing it. 

Somewhat along those same lines, why is "washed up" an insult?  I'd get it if it was "washed out," a la a piece of clothing that has been washed so many times the colours have faded or something, but "washed up" doesn't make much sense in a derogatory context.  Like, when you say, "ok, it's time to wash up" before you take a shower or something, then "washing up" is making yourself cleaner and generally improving your lot in life.  Switching the shower context of "washed up" with the insult context of "washed up" makes no sense.  "I was once good at something but then I got into the shower, and when I got out, I was suddenly subpar at the aforementioned activity."

Sunday, April 05, 2015

New Florence!

Back in the day, albums didn't "drop," they were just released.  It was a lot harder to find information about when one of your favourite musicians had a new record or single out, and thus it wasn't uncommon to just turn on the radio one day, hear something that vaguely sounded like their sound and suddenly realize "oh man, hey wait, this is a new song!"

I recently had that lovely pre-21st century experience while recently listening to the radio and realizing, "oh man, hey wait, this is a new Florence & The Machine song!"  And it was good!  And then a modicum of internet research revealed that the song in question ("What Kind Of Man") isn't technically the 'new' single since it's been out since February, whereas the NEWER single ("St. Jude") was just released a couple of weeks ago.  I'm very with it.

Not too crazy about "St. Jude" yet but maybe it'll grow on me after a few dozen listens. 

Friday, April 03, 2015

Questioning Mark

About six years ago, I posted a notice here on this very blog saying that I wanted to become an advice columnist, and opened the floor to questions.  I received a few from some friends….and then completely forgot to write the follow-up post.  Oops.  So, better late than never, here is the first edition of Questioning Mark!  The bright side about waiting a whopping six years to answer these questions was that I was able to ask for follow-ups to see how things turned out.

You can send your own questions, queries and concerns for future editions, which I promise will be coming before the end of the decade.  This batch ended up all being about relationships, though I’m open to answering any problem you might have (since lord knows relationships may not be my specialty…uh, I probably shouldn’t have admitted that before getting to the questions….oh well, who cares, nobody’s reading this anyways.) 

Q: I recently signed up for a dating website and was surprised to find my friend’s girlfriend with an active profile.  They’ve been going out for at least two years and were happy as far as I knew, but according to her profile, she had last been on the site just two days earlier.  Should I tell my friend or confront her about it?

A: It depends which dating site you’re frequenting, but some of them alert you when someone visits your profile.  If this is the case for your site, then she already knows you checked her out, so be prepared for some awkwardness the next time you’re all hanging out!  I wouldn’t necessarily jump to conclusions that she’s cheating or that their relationship is on the rocks; for all you know, she might’ve created that profile ages ago and only just remembered it was still active.  It’s not a good look to keep it up while you’re in a relationship, granted, yet maybe she put a lot of work into clever answers and doesn’t want to delete the whole thing.  Or, maybe she leaves it up as an ego boost to see how many other guys still message her.  (Not that this is always a good thing, given how creepy a lot of dating-website dudes can be….um, myself not included.)  Or, maybe she’s one of those weirdos who just creates a dating website profile only to find platonic friends, which I’ve never understood.  Surely there has been to be a less confusing avenue to find a buddy.

I’d bring it up to her in a “uh, this is kind of a weird question, but…” kind of way and see what she says.  It also depends on how close you are with this woman and if you’re semi-friends yourself or if she’s just Your Buddy’s Girlfriend and have never spoken to her one-on-one. 

2015 follow-up: “They broke up a lot time ago, so maybe she was looking for a new guy after all.  I never ended up talking to her about it.”

Q: My ex-boyfriend and I still get along really well and frequently hang out (no backsliding, ha ha!)  We were both out at a bar with some of my friends and some of his friends, including a guy J he works with that I’d never met before.  J seemed nice at first but as the night went on, he started pretty heavily flirting with me, always when my ex was away from the table.  I let him know I wasn’t interested and then he did his best to ignore me for the rest of the night.  My question is, should I tell my ex about this?  On the one hand it wasn’t a big deal and J wasn’t being creepy or anything, yet maybe he should know just for the sake of knowing?

A: I don’t see the harm in bringing it up.  As you noted, it’s not like J was doing anything truly untoward, though it is a dick move to hit on a friend’s ex (and seemingly only doing so behind his back) and more of a general dickish guy move to hit on a girl and then pretend she doesn’t exist after he gets shot down.  I’m presuming that, since you didn’t mention the possibility, there was no chance your ex was actually trying to fix J up with you, right?  I can’t imagine that would be the case, since while being friends with an ex isn’t unusual, I’d imagine it’s a much thinner Venn diagram of exes who try to set each other up.  

2015 follow-up: “I’d completely forgotten this happened!  I actually did end up telling my ex and he was surprised since he thought J was a pretty shy guy.  He was also a little annoyed that J would hit on me since J knew we used to be a couple….big guy code violation!”   

Q: Dear Abby….or, Mark: I have a choice of two schools for my PhD program.  One program offers me exactly what I want to study, but it’s on the west coast.  The other program is not quite a perfect fit (maybe 90% of the other one) but it’s closer to home and more importantly, the school is in my girlfriend’s hometown.  We’ve only been dating for six months but it’s already pretty serious and I want to give it a chance rather than go long-distance right away.  Your thoughts?

A: Heart vs. school, the ultimate battle!  Keep in mind that a PhD will take up at least a couple of years of your life, so to you really want to put all that time and effort into it without it being *exactly* want you’re interested in?  Also, while things are going well in your relationship now, it would doubly suck if you broke up in a few months time and then you’re stuck with the sub-standard PhD.  I’d bite the bullet and go to the better school — for one thing, you’re in a much cooler location out on the west coast, so that’ll be fun unto itself.  It’s easier to handle long-distance relationships these days anyway thanks to the internet, so it won’t be *so* bad. 

2015 follow-up: “I went to my first choice school, which led to us breaking up since she didn’t want to do long distance.  It wasn’t fun at the time, though I honestly haven’t thought about her in a while until I got your e-mail, so thanks for the painful memories, jackass!  :)  The school was a lot of fun and my PhD indirectly led to my job, though, so it all worked out.”