Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Dad Will Be On NPR Today

On Thursday, November 29th, my dad will be on "All Things Considered" sometime between 4 and 6 PM Eastern Time. He was interviewed along with a lot of Republicans who watched the Republican Debate last night, and there'll be a small five minute section on their reactions to what happened. If you've got a chance, try to listen in and see if you hear him at all.

My dad's a bright guy with good opinions, so I figure this has to be a boon for NPR listeners, who aren't usually both. He runs this blog here.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's-a Me!

I usually don't read Penny Arcade, but I like this one:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

True Confession

I have seen approximately 3,500 Kay Jewelers commercials, and mockingly sung along with their tagline 3,498 of those times, but it never occurred to me until tonight that the tagline "every kiss begins with Kay" comes from the fact that the word "kiss" actually begins with the letter K. My SAT verbal was what again?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Iran So Far

NBC has finally broken down and posted Andy Samberg's love song to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "Iran So Far." It's fantastic how far digital shorts have come from "Lazy Sunday" until now - you can tell they're pouring so much more money into them. A piano being towed on a truck throughout New York? That's cash they definitely didn't spend last year right there.

By the way, since doing this video, Fred Armisen has ended up playing Ahmadinejad at least twice more that I've seen, plus doing essentially the same character on "30 Rock" last night as a possible terrorist/eager "Amazing Race" fan. Can we all agree that the least likely person to get pigeonholed as an Iranian terrorist would have to be Fred Armisen? What a strange fall it's been.

Anyway, if you haven't seen the video yet, definitely click on the link and check it out, it's on par with the Emmy winner (!) "Dick In A Box" and features two memorable cameos. I wish SNL wouldn't include the audience reaction track during these videos, it only ruins it as a lot of the best lines get laughed over, though you can still make out this one:

They call you "Weasel"
They say your methods are medieval
You can play the Jews
I can be your Jim Caviezel

Ah... love in New York City in the summertime is so grand.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm tired of Tila Tequila

I always thought that if I had cable, I would watch a lot of MTV. But now that I do have cable (a free connection we've gotten from somewhere, we keep waiting for it to disappear and it keeps sticking around), I always skip right by it, because it's always the same show. Does MTV ever show anything other than "Shot of Love with Tila Tequila?" Ever? Everytime I turn on the television, even at 3 in the morning, it's on. They show a lot of previews for "The Hills" during the commericial breaks but never actually seem to show an episode of the show. Isn't this show an elimination show? Each time it's on, Tila eliminates two or three more contestants, but whenever I turn on the tv, there's always about ten people still playing. Does it ever end? Has it already, and I just somehow missed it, even though I've flipped past it 3,000 times in the past week? I don't understand.

In other news, I miss late night TV. When every show goes to repeats in a week or two, I'm going to feel depressed. It's not that I can't deal with the loss, but when I turn on the TV late at night, I want to see something other than Jerry Butler and Gayle Samuels selling me "The Soul Story" collection. Just nice to have some options.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Review: Dan In Real Life (2007)

Steve Carrell has essentially become the gold standard in comedy today – even when in a truly unfortunate vehicle, he’s consistently funny and, what’s more, consistently watchable even in the most dramatic and unfunny moments (he even pulled through and carried Evan Almighty). What other leading man can that be said about in this day and age? Run down the list of Hollywood funnymen and see who doesn’t have a intolerable bomb of a film in the past three or four years. And I’m gonna be really, really nice on this list. I’m avoiding films like Along Came Polly and Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny, who at least had some fans, and going directly to the films that everyone unequivocally hated:

1. Will Ferrell – Kicking and Screaming, Bewitched
2. Ben Stiller – Envy, School For Scoundrels
3. Jack Black – Envy, Shark Tale

4. Jim Carrey – Lemony Snicket, The Number 23

5. Vince Vaughn – Be Cool, Blackball

6. Owen Wilson – The Big Bounce, Around the World in 80 Days
7. Eddie Murphy – Norbit

In the meantime, Carrell stole the show on Bruce Almighty, broke out big with The 40-Year Old Virgin, won an Emmy off of “The Office,” tugged all of our hearts, even people whose hearts were practically untuggable, in Little Miss Sunshine, showed off some excellent voice talent on Over the Hedge and those “The Ambiguously Gay Duo” SNL sketches, somehow made it through Evan Almighty, and… oh, yeah, he was in Bewitched, too, never mind. Still, that was before he was big, so it doesn’t count, since that’s the point where actors take whatever comes to them.

The point of this was that I expected Dan In Real Life to not be very good, but I went anyway figuring that Carrell would probably save it enough to be worth watching. Plus, it had Juliette Binoche as the love interest, which was enough of a pull for me to show up. My point is this: my expectations weren’t high, but they weren’t particularly low. So it was totally surprising to me how blown away I was that this movie was so good.

Let’s be honest here: you can say all you want that you like a particular actor or actress and’ll show up to see them in anything, but honestly, film is a director’s medium, far more than the average viewer realizes. When a movie’s great, it’s great because the director did a great job. Occasionally an actor overcomes mediocre work from a director and makes something a great movie, but more often it’s the other way around, and the director pulls great performances down. I didn’t know anything about Peter Hedges, the director of Dan In Real Life (hereafter called DIRL because that seems fun to type) except that he’d previously directed a film called Pieces of April, which starred Katie Holmes as a goth chick. And if that doesn’t raise all sorts of red flags on your radar, then you are not human.

But this film was more than just capably directed; it’s a textbook example of a indie film director putting his low-budget sensibilities to work. Hedges made the very specific choice to tell the whole film from Dan’s point of view, where everything that’s seen we see through his eyes (not literally, it's not a POV cam or anything weird like that). It’s a smart choice because so many of Dan’s decisions in the film are bad ones. Very bad ones.

You see, Dan In Real Life – whoops, DIRL, sorry - is the story of widower Dan Something-Or-Other, a newspaper columnist of the Dear Abby variety. He’s raising three daughters who are I would estimate about 15, 13, and 10, all of whom are going through troubled-young-girl stuff that Dan finds himself completely incapable of dealing with. The film takes place over a week-long reunion at his parent’s summer house with his entire extended family, the first day of which Dan has a meetcute downtown with Marie, a pretty French woman (Binoche, natch) to whom he almost immediately pours out his entire life story, because, frankly, that’s the sort of thing that speeds the plot along. There’s connection, they have a lovely time, she finally admits she’s seeing someone, he manages to finagle her phone number anyway, he returns to the house to find out that – BAM! – the fella Marie is dating is Dan’s younger brother, Mitch (Dane Cook). Woah woah! Will hijinks ensue? Who can tell?

The premise is absolutely a little trite, and I expected a certain degree of schmaltz when I snuck into the theatre (what? You gonna make something of it? I’m penniless these days, but I do love a good family comedy!), but the story is carried off with skillfull ease by Hedges and the pack of talented, mostly unknown, actors who showed up to play Dan’s family (particularly his daughters, who all provide a lovely counterbalance to Dan’s gradual emotional meltdown). Even Cook is adequate – in fact, more than adequate, Cook was excellent in this movie (take that Employee of the Month!).

Part of the reason that Cook is excellent is that he’s so well cast for his part –Mitch is boorish and immature and yet eminently likeable, in the exact same fashion as Cook’s on-stage persona. And since the film is told through Dan’s perspective (to get back to that point I started three paragraphs ago, this review is really poorly written, isn't it?), we see him as Dan sees him; a self-absorbed but well-meaning individual who is finally showing signs of growing up. It’s one of the many reasons that we begin to realize that Dan and Marie might not eventually end up together, even though Mitch clearly doesn’t deserve her (warning: correct use of the double negative approaching) - he also doesn’t not deserve her. He clearly believes being with Marie is making him a better man, and Dan sees it too, and so we see it and start to root for Mitch, too.

Both the drama and the comedy in the film come from the fact that Dan is not really trying to win Marie from Mitch, rather, he’s trying quite desperately not to. He wants his brother to be happy, he doesn’t want to do the wrong thing, he doesn’t want to hurt anyone, and yet he simply cannot help the fact that he’s falling quite heavily in love with Marie. His constant plotting is not to get her to fall for him but just to stop himself from letting his feelings get in the way of what he thinks is right – his every action is the emotional equivalent of pinching yourself to keep yourself awake. Yet, perhaps because he’s emotionally fragile since the death of his wife, perhaps because the constant proximity to Marie leaves him more and more vulnerable, or perhaps because he’s really in love with her, he keeps ending up acting stranger and stranger in his desperate bid to extricate himself from his own feelings.

DIRL (I got it that time) is one of those films that rises above its own seen-it-before plotlines and lets the honesty of its relationships carry it along. Every family detail in the film is perfectly fleshed out – how the whole family fits together, the traditions that stick around even after everyone’s gotten too old for them, the unbreakable ties that both familial love and romantic love give. Hedges isn’t doing anything new here, but what he is doing is family filmmaking at its best – letting each detail of the film enhance the story, interlocking each performance to balance each other out. It’s very delicately done, and Hedges deserves great praise for it.

But ultimately, it’s Carrell who really carries the day here, and it’s another victory tally for him on a streak that should last at least until Horton Hears A Who comes out. As you can imagine, I don’t have high hopes for that one. Though as we’ve seen here, sometimes a film can really surprise you.

Four Stars Out of Five.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I Need You - Zach Hendricks

I put up a new Zach Hendricks video, it's called "I Need You." It's my favorite of any song that he's written, and this is the best section of the live concert I've been cutting together, so I'd very much recommend listening. It's a great song.

By the way, for those of you who don't know, of all the buttons on the bottom bar of a YouTube video, the one second from the right (or is it first from the right? Anyway, starting on the right side, it's the second button) will reconvert the video to it's original size, making it slightly smaller but twice as clear. It's the best way to watch any content on YouTube not uploaded by a major television network company. Here's a picture demonstration:

This indistinct picture is an example of what a YouTube video usually looks like.

Hit the button, and you can finally see some detail on the face. Much better, no?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mad Props, Kring

"Heroes" creator Tim Kring is out picketing, like every Hollywood writer, but he did a quick interview discussing the season so far and basically admitting that huge portions of it have been a disaster. Now, a lot of show creators wouldn't ever be able to swallow their egos and do that, especially midseason, but I'm not complaining. "Heroes" has been a mess this season, and it's thrilling to see that the powers in charge have noticed and are doing something about it.

Writers naturally worry that speaking out like this would cause damage to the show, or tear down confidence in the creative team behind it, especially with a drama, but I think the opposite is true. Whenever I hear a higher-up talk like this, it usually makes me feel more confident in the show's direction. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are endlessly self-deprecating and willing to tear apart "Lost" on their weekly podcast, and yet it's only further convinced me that the show is in good hands. Bad writing on television comes from building pressure tearing down the creative impetus that started the show, and I'm always glad to see writers free from that sort of strain. It tells me that "the big picture is never in question, we're willing to admit that sometimes we mess up on the details, though." A lot of show creators aren't willing to make a statement against any element of the show because they feel that might give some sign that the big picture might actually be in question. And when you've reached that point, you've stopped paying to win, you're playing not to lose.

So, bravo Mr. Kring and a bright new direction for "Heroes!" And here's hoping that we lose Claire's lame new boyfriend West and his crappy dialogue and lame-ass flying stunts and his whining about being kidnapped that one time, and focus more on letting Peter start blowing things up so he can get his hot new Irish girlfriend back, whats-her-name. And, Lord almighty, thanks for finally getting us out of that field with seven tents set up that was supposed to be feudal Japan. When you get budget cutbacks, Timmy, sometimes it's just best to give up.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Inflatable Jesus

As part of our Loft Christmas series, we're doing four weeks called "Stuffed," which is about avoiding the nonsense of Christmas. Which led to the decision to cover our stage with the worst collection of Christmas junk we could find. Which led to our head pastor, Andy, traveling to Garden Ridge to buy $1300 worth of pure holiday crap. Including an inflatable Jesus sitting in a bass fishing boat (with outboard motor, of course). I don't know why you'd want one on Christmas, I certainly don't know you'd want one ever, but we have one. Apparently, it's quite something. I don't have any pictures yet, though I'll definitely put one up as soon as I can. Until then, this picture will have to do:

I don't know where that is or what it is, or what it is those multi-cultural children are emerging from (my best theory is that it's a belt made of eggs, all of which are hatching emotional-dependent humanoids simultaneously), but I pulled this one picture out of a cornucopia of possible inflatable Jesus pictures available online. And if my have my way, in a couple more weeks, there'll be one more available.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Review: American Gangster (2007)

You already know I’m a Ridley Scott fan – while I was in film school in LA, I spent 4 months interning at his company during the making of A Good Year. So you’ll expect gushing during any review of a Ridley film (and yes, that’s here). But if you’ve already seen Gangster, you’ll know it’s deserved; this film is a piece of filmmaking on par with Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator, anything he’s made, or any gangster movie we’ve ever seen (though I am not suggesting that it exceeds The Godfather, Coppola faithful. Spare me your letter of vilest hate). It both embraces convention and holds it out at arm’s length, reinventing how we see organized crime and its fallout in ways that the twenty years of network television between this film and Goodfellas has tried and utterly failed to.

The storyline is as basic as it comes: druglord Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) floods the street with a heroin twice as potent and half as expensive as anything else available, netting himself money and power. Tenacious narcotics cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) tries to sniff his way up the power chain and bring down Lucas. We’ve seen this story before (well, not personally, probably, but on the television).

Naturally, the story is in the details, and Ridley is never more on his game in that regard than he is right here. Every piece of standard Ridley filmmaking is on display here; there are combinations of every sort of inventive camerawork here that, unlike so many directors of the day, always enhances and never detracts. But it’s his eye for verisimilitude that has improved with age: every cement-block hallway and cramped office, every piece of lighting, every prop, feels completely true to the world and to the characters. No one ever gets that “hey, I’m in a period film, don’t I look cool in 70’s duds!” look on their face, which is impressive considering the supporting actors on display here aren’t usually known for their restraint (rappers T.I. and Common do stalwart work here, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. reminds us why we once thought he was Oscar material).

But the real story is the performances of the two leads, who (like Michael Mann’s Heat) essentially head up two entirely separate films and only cross paths at the very last moment – and even then, with the whole story almost completely told, the sparks of their very proximity ignite the film again. Washington deserves the real credit here, his Frank Lucas is a role as perfectly suited to him as any he’s ever done. Here, Lucas is driven, dedicated, committed to family; he betrays almost no weaknesses – he’s a businessman, through and through. The idea of good and evil seems to essentially have never occurred to him. He sees an opportunity and exploits it, and when the money starts to roll in, the first thing he does is take care of the people he brought with him. Washington plays Lucas essentially the same way he’s played every role he’s ever taken, it’s not until we’re a good hour and a half into his performance that we see that Lucas is almost soulless, a man of principles and work ethic but no heart at all.

Crowe’s portrayal of Roberts is just as complicated, a man of considerable passion and ethic who has burned every element of his life down except for his commitment to his profession and the good work that he’s doing in it. Early on we see him recover almost a million dollars in police bribes; rather than keeping the money, staying rich, and staying out of trouble at the station, he turns the cash in, fully knowing that the money will end up in the hands of the dirty cops it was going to anyway (and, of course, it does) and that he'll be ostracized for ratting (and he is). It’s a basic vignette on the sort of man Roberts is, but tellingly, it haunts Roberts the rest of the film, as the men he works with and the men he seeks to bring down react in the same unbelieving, head-shaking fashion when they hear the story. It’s as if to everyone in the film but Roberts, the law is something along the lines of a parental curfew, the sort of thing for goody-goodies who don’t know the value of a dollar. In his darker moments, it sometimes seems Roberts himself feels that.

The trailers bill the film as a pounding head-to-head combat between good and evil, but really Roberts and Lucas are cut from the same mold, separated only by a small differentiation in the direction of their moral compass. But that small difference gives them such different lives it takes the whole film for us to see how similar they are. But with a film as good as this one, it’s certainly worth waiting that long.

Four Stars Out Of Five

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Writer's Guild Strike

In general, when we hear about things like the WGA strike, we find it a bit laughable. And for right now, it certainly is - seeking a share of digital profits that don't exist yet, fighting to get story editors from reality shows classified as writers so that they can join the picket lines - and it all means that we get stuck with no late night talk shows, no SNL, and a good chance that there'll be long hiatuses on narrative shows later this season. As if the writers for "Heroes" needed help derailing the season.

I've been enjoying the nonsense this week, since it give this whole next year of television a bizarrely fun twist if this drags on a few weeks - how will each show end their season? Will some shows fall completely apart, where they start having those episodes that are so bad that you start calling friends to get them to turn on a TV right then ("Quick! 'Law & Order' just added a talking cat!"). But I got a piece of news from Peracchio that gave me a splash of reality.
My old quasi-roommate (don't ask), Greg Weidman, works for the writers of "NCIS." He's not a Guild member himself, but his boss is, so he's on vaca while all this gets wrapped up. And as of Friday, he might not have a job. And that's sad. Yet I can't stop laughing at this picture.

He's the one who's... y'know, never mind, I'll let you figure it out. Anyway, as much as I hope Greg gets to keep his job and stay out there on the street protesting throughout the break, I do hope the break continues a little longer. I love watching the panic of networks making truly outrageously bad decisions, whether in ill-conceived reality shows ("Come quick! 'Midgets Vs. Meerkats' is doing improv comedy night!") or just generally poor choices ("The cat's developed a cocaine addiction! He's screaming profanities at Sam Waterson!"). It'll be fun.

Wait two weeks from now, when when you start hearing things like "We've decided that, in order to save money, when we get back from the break, we're going to move shooting for 'Gossip Girl' from Upper East Side New York to Oklahoma City," or "'Criminal Minds' is going to be written as more of a one-man show to save cash on salaries until sweeps." You'll see the fun in it, too, I promise.

Labels: , , ,

Don Shula Is An Idiot

The general hubbub over the Patriot's ridiculously successful season just hit rock bottom. Don Shula just compared the Patriots to Barry Bonds.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Welcome to the world, Emily.

As of 2:55 ET today, I am an uncle. Emily Adelaide Wyman is 6 pounds even. Congratulations to people other than me can be sent here.

Heidi was induced this morning, and so Emily arrived a good two or three weeks before her due date, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that she did the right thing and inherited Heidi's genes rather than our side of the family's. I'm hoping that she inherits my SAT scores, my love of good filmmaking, and nothing else.

Congratulations, bro. I knew you could do it.

You too, Heidi. You helped.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What's Wrong With Major League Baseball, or Why I Think The Pirates Should Become America's Team

I thought about naming this post “A-Rod and What’s Wrong With Major League Baseball,” but I was afraid someone would think I had recycled a post from 2001 (ooooh! feel the burn!). Frankly, I feel a little bad for A-Rod – literally right as I was writing that last sentence, Seth Meyers commented on the A-Rod opt-out on SNL, noting “he’s available for any team with money to spare that doesn’t like winning.” But seriously, folks.

This may surprise you, but this post was actually not intended to be entirely a collection of poorly-executed A-Rod jokes (though I’m always willing to go there, I just don’t know if there’s enough demand. Just like I don’t know if there’s enough demand for a $350 million player who can’t hit in the postseason! Hey-o! Here I come!). This post concerns the shadowy future of the MLB in the coming years, and for a change, it has nothing to do with steroids.

I’m still floating on the Red Sox’s second world championship in my lifetime, so complaining about the future of baseball feels a little awkward, but it was while watching the World Series this year that I realized just how truly bad this league could become if it continues along its current path. And it was A-Rod who showed me that.

If you watched the World Series this year (and according the ratings, you didn’t, so I better explain it) you’ll already know that A-Rod has chosen to opt out of his Yankee contract and look for more money elsewhere. His agent, Scott Boras, decided the opportune time to announce this news would be in the middle of the World Series, in order to shame the Yankees, who always feel they should be in the World Series, and to spread the buzz among the millions of fans watching the telecast (forgetting that 7 of the 10 million fans watching were in the greater Boston area, where the prospect of signing A-Rod for any reason other than screwing the Yankees seems inconceivable).

But perhaps Boras was right to announce it then, because sports nation has been buzzing about the possibilities. Will A-Rod screw the Yankees and sign with the Red Sox? Or the Mets? Perhaps he’ll travel out West again and sign with the Giants or the Angels. For the next several weeks, the major question on every baseball talk show will have to be who will sign this year’s MVP.

What’s a much more pertinent question is, “who can?” A-Rod would’ve made $81 million over the next 3 years, and the Yankees proposed adding another 5 years to the end of his contract for $150 million, which makes an 8-year total of… lessee here, carry the one… $230.65 million more than Kevin Youkilis made this season. Which one would you want on your team? But A-Rod wants more. $100 million more.

Honestly, I can’t fault A-Rod. New York was never good for him, and he’ll make that money somewhere – maybe with the Giants, who loved Bonds with the sort of judgment-free love that only a city with no other currently valid sports franchises can give. A-Rod would thrive there. Bonds would last three more seasons with A-Rod behind him. The media would give them a really inane nickname, like the Record-Breaking Rockers or something vomitous like that. A-Rod would spend his money on something outrageous and idiotic, like buying Britsh Columbia or crossbreeding horses to try to make unicorns, or something similar. Everyone would sigh and do their best to ignore the team, but the team would win a lot of games, there’d be at least one good playoff series each year, and all would be right with the world.

Unless, of course, you don’t live in San Francisco, or Boston, or New York, or one of those cities with the capability to sign A-Rod. Maybe you live in Tampa Bay, or Kansas City, or Oakland, or Phoenix, or all those other cities that never bothered to throw their hats into the bidding ring because they couldn’t ever possibly afford it.

I know a lot has been said about the divide between baseball’s haves (Yankees, Mets, Red Sox) and have-nots (Tampa Bay, Washington, Florida, Pittsburgh), but that divide is growing, it’s becoming more pronounced in a number of ways, and it needs to be addressed. The Yankees had a payroll of $190 million this year, the Red Sox $143 million, Tampa Bay $24 million. These teams play in the same division. I don’t give the Rays much of a chance next year. Or the year after that.

What’s more, teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox have changed their ways, rebuilding their farm systems from the ground up. No longer are prospects viewed as nothing more than trade bait for established veterans, but as the most valuable possible way to build a team. The Red Sox won this year with a rookie second baseman, a rookie outfielder, and three young pitchers who we developed through our minor league teams. This team is going to be even better next year. The Devil Rays will be about the same, though they might be a little bit worse.

The long-term ramifications look worse the more you consider them. The Red Sox had a huge payroll this year, but that’s not a financial stretch for them because they generated hordes of revenue from fielding a successful team. Winning the World Series three years ago spread Red Sox Nation across America, leading to extremely lucrative merchandising deals for Red Sox management. The success of those deal created more funds to pay players with, enabling management to throw money at players it didn’t need (see J.D. Drew, $70 million over 5 years), hoping that their contribution would push the team a little bit further. As it turned out, they were right, the team had yet another very successful year, finishing with the Sox winning the World Series - which only leads to further popularity, more merchandising and television revenue, and more money to throw at players. One of the major reasons that the Yankees can throw money at any player they see is that their massive capital-generating machine will make sure that the money is always there – and consistently fielding a winner makes for a solid marketing product.

The Cubs are just starting to realize this. Long the loveable losers, their management had always been happy just to remain The Friendly Confines, where you can see good old-fashioned baseball and enjoy the sunshine. Winning would just get in the way of their business plan, which was always just about being classic Americana. But their recent playoff runs have generated tons of revenue for the team, and management is just starting to make the connection that good team = popularity = money = better team = more popularity = more money. You’d think they would have seen this one sooner, but I suppose that’s part of what makes the Cubs the Cubs. At any rate, they’re taking it to heart: their payroll topped $100 million this year.

How then, is a smaller market team to compete? The old rules soon won’t apply anymore – it used to be that small-market teams focused on developing players and building teams from scratch, and hoping that enough stars would align to give them a shot at glory. Sure, it would only happen once every ten years or so, but those few years when it did happen would feel awfully good. But now the farm systems of the bigger teams either meet or exceed those of the small-market systems, and those teams will have no way to compete. They’re all doomed to permanent ignominy, without a chance of ever fielding a winner. It’s a tough road ahead.

Soon, the only teams with the potential to compete consistently will be highly marketable teams. The Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Dodgers, and Cubs will compete every year – in twenty years, one of those teams will be winning the World Series each year, no exceptions. The other teams will place in descending order of the size of their market; it will not vary from year to year, it will always be the same.

However, I’ve discovered a way out of this. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy which can only be used by one team, but that one team can ride it to greatness. One team – an preferably someone desperate, like the Pittsburgh Pirates – hires a truly extraordinary ad firm and starts to sell itself as America’s underdog. They make it trendy to root for the Pirates, not because the Pirates are any good, but because they are so tragically hopeless. The firm will convince people to feel bad for the Pirates, convince them that being a Pirates fan is the mark of someone with pathos and soul, who can bear the sufferings of an unfavorable market and rise above it. They will root for the Pirates because the Pirates have no money and therefore no chance. It is a classic story of the down-and-out, a real-life Rocky Balboa in black and yellow.

To Boston or Chicago natives, this story is starting to sound awfully familiar. But here is the crux of it: convincing America that it is an emotional prerequisite to root for the Pirates will actually make the Pirates a much better team, just like it did for the Red Sox and Cubs. They will sell much more merchandise, they will get much plusher TV deals, they will sell more tickets, they will become financially viable; which will lead them to fielding better and better teams each year, which will only lead to increased popularity. Soon it will be clear that buying a Pirates hat is more than just a symbol of your fandom, it’s giving your money to a worthy cause, helping a struggling organization fight back against the unfair economic climate that weighs it down. And we will feel united in this goal. Economic disparity will become the new Billy Goat curse. Economic disparity will become the new Curse of the Bambino. And we will conquer it together.

Frankly, I’m looking forward to it. If it ends up happening, I’ll be the first to purchase a commemorative “Fight The Establishment!” t-shirt with a snarling pirate across the chest. I’ll see you in line.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I Cannot Remember

I had two fairly extended conversations with people tonight whose names I could not remember. One of these people I not only had no idea what her name was, but I had no real recollection that we had reached the point in our relationship where I should be expected to remember her name. I had though we were still in that "oh, hi, uh... I'm sorry, I've forgotten your name - oh, Jessica, that's right, I remember now, thank you" stage, which is a stage I usually remain in until the point when I'm called upon to give the best man toast, like I did for that guy that I grew up with. But in this case, I was sure we were still firmly in the "acquaintance" stage, but instead our conversation was littered with "ever since I've known you, you've had so much car trouble," and "I haven't talked to you since that 'People's Court' video." I was panicked that I would be required at some point to come up with some relevant details about her life, or how I knew her, or reference her name. It's a terrible feeling; this deep dread sitting in my stomach, leaving me constantly terrified throughout the conversation.

But then it got even worse. On my way out the door, I ran into someone I swear I have never seen in my entire life. I had no idea who this guy was. And he gave me a hug. I couldn't even bring up something general to try to get closer to where I knew this guy from - y'know, "so, were you at church this Sunday?" I didn't even have "gee, I haven't seen you since we went out together in that group that one time a while back." I had no frame of reference, nothing. It was so bad I actually thought maybe I was being pranked in some way, and the guy was about to say "I'm just kidding, Joe put me up to it, I've never seen you in my life! You shoulda seen your face! Priceless!" I made about as fast a retreat as I've ever made to my car, terrified that he might say something like "hey, I've still got those DVDs I borrowed, swing by the house and pick 'em up on your way home," and I would have to break down and admit, weeping, I had no idea who he was.

In a perfect world, my life would be more like The Devil Wears Prada, where two assistants would follow me constantly, available to whisper the names of each acquaintance to me as I came across them. Naturally, my wardrobe would be substantially improved. And ideally, those assistants would still be Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt.

Labels: ,

Manny Being Manny

Manny Rodriguez just appeared on Leno and actually said the phrase "Yeah, maybe I shouldn't've done that, but that's just Manny being Manny." That's right, not only does Manny know and use that phrase himself, but he uses it in such a way to remove himself even further from from referring to himself in the first person. Manny just referred to himself in the 3rd person referring to himself in the 3rd person. He referred to himself in the 6th person. I just, in that moment, achieved nirvana.

The best part was that he also congratulated himself for it, turning around and giving a very surprised Steve Carrell a fist bump. He was about ten seconds away from creating a complicated home run congratulation handshake with Leno. I can't believe we ever thought about trading this guy for A-Rod.

Note: Later that evening, Ortiz appeared on Conan and did create a complicated home run congratulation handshake with Conan. It was an adaptation of the little bow that he and Dice-K do together in the dugout, and my perfect world just got better. How great is it that our World Champion Red Sox get to be this team?