Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bad Names for Dogs




Banana Hammock



Mr. Bitey


General Poopington

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mike Leach Mania!

It's a guest post!

I asked Angela, a proud former Red Raider, to share with us her thoughts on the recent Mike Leach firing hoopla. The end of this piece is a smidge out-of-date: Angela learned just a half-hour after she sent it to me that Texas Tech actually succeeded in hiring Tommy Tuberville. That's a great hire. Therefore, it fills me with dread.

But enough about my feelings; here are Angela's. Thanks, Angela!

What do I think about the Mike Leach “scandal” that hit Texas Tech two weeks ago? Well, let’s just start this out by saying Mike Leach is crazy. He’s absolutely insane, probably difficult to get along with (or even understand), and he does not show much respect for anything outside of pirates, Geronimo, and football genius. He also had a winning season and a bowl game bid every year he coached at Tech, the highest graduation rate of any college football program, and he’s the main reason I began to like college football during my days as a member of the Goin’ Band from Raiderland. He’s been known as the mad scientist of football, and his offensive genius made for very exciting games. His eccentricity also made for very interesting interviews. He’s done the weather report for a local new station (raining mud is also one of my favorite Lubbock weather patterns), given tips on dating, and accused the football players of listening to their fat little girlfriends after the loss to A&M this season. You never know what you’re going to get with this guy!

Leach has stirred up trouble before. He was fined $10,000 for a rant he went on after the 2007 game against Texas about the dismal officiating during the game. Maybe this is what initially set off the university brass and made them hate the best football coach they’ll probably ever see at Tech. I’m not really sure, but Texas Tech is definitely not the place for a laid back and liberal coach. Although in my experience, Lubbock LOVED Mike Leach. He mentions his love of pirates, so we all dress up like pirates, the band does a pirate show, and you can see pirate flags all over town. As Rachel mentioned, the athletic director Myers and others at Tech have wanted him gone since contract negotiations last winter. It has since come out there were e-mails exchanged among these folks and some boosters. In an e-mail to Myers: “I feel you should sign a contract that does not cost us too much to fire him.” Obviously there were plans in place to get this guy fired before they paid him too much…like the $800,000 bonus he earned.

The university launched an investigation into James’ allegations on Dec. 20 and fired Leach 10 days later. Now I’m not sure how long investigations into this typically last, but 10 days seems a bit fast. Good thing they got it all finished up the day before they had to pay Leach $800,000 for doing his job and doing it well. And now this has been followed by Jim Leavitt getting fired by South Florida. This new firing comes after a month long investigation that still seems inconclusive to me, as the very kid Leavitt’s accused of grabbing by the throat doesn’t even feel that the coach did anything wrong: “People can say different things but he only grabbed my shoulder pads to motivate me, because he's a passionate guy.” Apparently passion is no longer welcomed by college football.

I will personally greatly miss the coach that brought Tech’s football program into the national spotlight briefly. And so will most Texas Tech fans. I was at the Alamo bowl last week, and amount of support for Leach was overwhelming. The guy selling “Team Leach” shirts with skull and crossbones on the front is now probably a very rich man. Apparently if you watched on ESPN, you would not have seen the many signs supporting Leach and telling James to get back in the closet, you would not have heard the many chants of “We Want Leach!!,” and you would not have heard the booing as James entered or exited the ramp. Thanks ESPN, for making it seem that Tech had done the right thing. Maybe Leach did something wrong, and maybe his team was unhappy with him, but maybe the university should have done a better job figuring this out first before firing him. It makes the university look bad, especially coming after these same people sought out Bobby Knight and hired him right up after all his documented instances of player abuse. And it makes Mike Leach look even worse. I mean, how can you expect this mumbling mad man who is indifferent to how the world sees him to keep his mouth shut and not say things that will make it even harder for him to find a good job after this? I hope he gets a job, and I will immediately begin to follow that team, no matter how low on the totem pole. And I hope this team plays Texas Tech, because if that happens, it will be the first time I root against Texas Tech and for Mike Leach. He deserved better than the treatment he received, and I look forward to him getting millions of dollars from Tech when the litigations are over. Oh, and Tech should hire Tommy Tuberville real fast before USF tries to get him. If that man wants to be your coach, you hire that man! Let’s see how badly Tech can screw this up as well- I predict fairly badly.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Champeenship*

As you may know, the BCS "National" "Title" Game is tonight. (I'm getting to the point where I feel like I should spit after saying "BCS." Like on Cake Wrecks, when she writes about "Cupcake Cakes (patooie!)" or when Craig Ferguson pretends to spit on the ground when he mentions a non-CBS network. Like that.)

I am both rooting for Alabama and fairly certain they will win.

As usual, I know many Aggies who will be rooting for texas. I have had it explained to me that many Texans tend to root for t.u. when they are playing somebody from out-of-state, or Texas Tech, or whatever, they root for t.u. whenever they aren't playing the Aggies. Here's what's weird about that: if you do that, you don't think of t.u. as your rival; they're your second-favorite team. But oh well, if that's Texas Logic, so be it. I am, however, under no obligation to feel that way.

A more compelling argument is Conference Pride! Shouldn't Aggies be stoked for a fellow Big Twelve school to win a national championship? That holds some water, especially when a Big Twelve team is playing an SEC team, because SEC people are all about conference pride. Should I root for texas against Alabama so they can prove the Big Twelve is just as good as the SEC? I guess so, maybe. But the Big Twelve isn't as good as the SEC, especially not this year.

I think the conference thing is more than outweighed by the recruiting angle--it hurts A&M even more in competition with recruits every time that other school in Austin wins a national championship. We really don't need that.

No matter who roots for them or doesn't, I don't see t.u. winning this game. Yes, Alabama had some near disasters against Tennessee and Auburn (although, in 'Bama's defense, Auburn played out of their minds in that game), but texas had trouble figuring out how to play a decent first half until midway through the season and looked real ugly against the best defenses they played, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Sure, Alabama looks ugly a lot of the time, but that's because they're good at ugly. Ugly is their wheelhouse. I think they're going to destroy Colt McCoy this evening, and I think they've got it in the bag.

*"Champeenship" as in "A wagon fulla pancakes? In the champeenship?"
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Monday, January 4, 2010

It's a Carnival!

A blog recap carnival, apparently.

I'm going to do a variation on what MacKenzie suggested I should do (well, not me specifically, but people who read her blog, and she knows I am one of them). Except instead of posting the first line from my first blog post of each month of 2009, I'm going to post the first line of the post I like best from each month of 2009. (Mostly because my first post from April was distressingly lame.)

Carnival time!

January: I found this out a while back from Television Without Pity, but I wasn't excited to write about it because it's a bummer.

That's from "Chronicling Me Some Narnia, Part 3" in which I explained that Disney was dumping Voyage of the Dawn Treader (and it must be official by now that nobody's picked it up; I haven't heard anything about it). Then I talked about the cinematic (and non-cinematic) qualities of the last five Narnia books. I really enjoyed everybody's comments on that one.

February: A few weeks ago, Neal and I were extremely excited to see that there was a Sonic being built in Middleton.

But not as excited as everyone else in the greater Madison area. We have managed to eat at Sonic a handful of times since I wrote that story, but not as often as I had expected, since it's on the other side of town.

March: Bobble Billy came into my life serendipitously--Nancy's sister acquired him at a basketball game (before I even started attending them), but she wasn't very hardcore in her Aggie basketball fandom, so she asked Nancy if she wanted him.

That's from "Where Are They Now?: Bobble Billy". Since I wrote it, Real Life Billy has indeed been fired from the University of Kentucky and, puzzlingly, hasn't found a different job. He has had a high-profile DUI arrest, though, so that's . . . something?

April: I impulse-bought a ruler today!

It was, as advertised, "A Fascinating Tale from my Daily Adventures." Man, I am so glad I finally got a job later that month.

May: Tonight is the season finale of The Big Bang Theory (on CBS at 7:00 in the best timezone), so today seemed as good a time as any to share my thoughts about the show.

I hope you guys don't mind that I fancy myself a TV critic and devote many, many entries to seriously analyzing dumb shows. I'd ask if you minded, but I probably couldn't bring myself to stop even if you said you did.

May also saw perhaps the greatest picture I've ever posted to this blog:

I still really need to make Spocktoberfest a real-life event.

June: One of the least disputable opinions about entertainment today is that Pixar is awesome.

Pixar is awesome.

July: I was inspired--inspired by a cartoon entitled "Dude Watchin' with the Brontës."

Oh man, I still need to write a blog post about the book I read by The Third Brontë. And maybe another book by the Brontë I liked best (Charlotte), but I haven't read it yet, so we'll see.

August: I'm glad everybody seems to like my reports about things I (or my co-workers) find in library items.

I would have linked to the best list of weird things in library items, but the first line is pretty gross.

September: A couple of weeks ago, I ran into A Situation with my Netflix.

It's not that I'm actually that proud of "My Nefarious Netflix Plan," but September is one of those months that blog entries were thin on the ground. (And I'm a little proud of my nefariousness.)

October: This guy showed up my work yesterday.

I'm glad I didn't have to put up with life-size cardboard cutouts of Twilight characters at my library for very long.

November: For reasons that shall become clear later, I watched both Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty today.

The reason I was referring to was my planned princess quiz (which is no nearer to completion than it was the last time I brought it up). That blog post surprised me because I bashed on Sleeping Beauty pretty hard and nobody defended it. Maybe it's less popular than I thought?

December: According to your friend and mine, the National Weather Service, "A BLIZZARD WARNING IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 12:00AM CST THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10."

The blizzard itself wasn't too bad--snow days rule, after all. The only problem was that it took the City of Madison four or five days to get the roads clear. The City of Madison is incompetent.

2009 was pretty good. Maybe 2010 will be even better!
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So Romantic!

Is it immature of me to find this paragraph--from an ESPN story about the firing of the Washington Redskins' head coach and speculation about the hiring of their next coach--really funny?
It is no secret that Snyder admires Shanahan. The two men have known each other since the late 1990s, when they attended the same Pro Bowl, stayed in the same hotel in Hawaii, and wound up having dinner together one night. Since then, the two men have remained in contact and have had a friendly relationship.
I think it's the "wound up having dinner together one night" that sends it over the top for me.

(Side note: I just started following the author of the article, Adam Schefter, on Twitter, and it turns out he's, like, real smart about football. He makes me feel like I'm smarter about football just by reading his tweets.)
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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Friends: Season Seven

In general:
Let's not beat around the bush: this season isn't good. It's not terrible, but it's not good. There are no episodes that are horrible to the point of being unwatchable, but virtually every episode has at least one storyline that's lazy, nonsensical, unpleasant, boring, or just bad. Sub-par writing is the biggest problem with this season, but sub-par acting intrudes as well--this was the season that Matthew Perry was grappling with his prescription drug problem, and it shows.

This season also starts to get gimmicky, although not all gimmicks are bad. There's an increase in the frequency of celebrity guest stars, but it must be said that Susan Sarandon and Kathleen Turner do marvelously, stuntcasting or no. (Even Jason Alexander does OK.) Meanwhile, story arcs are rather thin on the ground. Besides the big one of The Wedding approaching, all there is is Joey going back to Days of Our Lives (which doesn't get that much screen time) and Rachel wanting to date then dating her cute young assistant, Tag. That's it. Aside from the Tag imbroglio, nobody even dates much. (Phoebe dates some blond guy who shows up in two separate episodes and has roughly six lines, and that's about it.) A lot of things happen, but unless they're wedding-related, they're not related to anything else.

Oh, and Phoebe kisses Rachel. Remember when people made a big deal out of that?

Little things that drive me crazy:
It's so sweet when Ross buys Phoebe a bicycle because she never had one when she was a kid. But then he goes and ruins it by being a jerk and bullying her into riding it.

The whole "Rachel once kissed a girl (played by guest star Winona Ryder)!" plot is pretty annoying--Rachel keeps embarrassing herself trying to convince Phoebe that it really happened, even though Winona keeps denying it. But then at the end it turns out that Winona not only remembered it happening, but had secretly been in love with Rachel and yearning for Rachel to return her love for all the years since it happened. I guess I should applaud the show for doing something unexpected--since I bag on it when it's super predictable--but that's just sad. (And creepy.)

Rachel and Phoebe fight over a guy in "The One with Joey's New Brain," then two episodes later, they re-use the same device by having Ross and Joey fight over Gabrielle Union in "The One with the Cheap Wedding Dress."

In "The One with Ross and Monica's Cousin," Rachel and Phoebe don't realize that they're supposed to host a bridal shower for Monica, so they just haphazardly throw one together. They keep messing everything up, but at the end, it's Monica who ends up embarrassing herself in front of the whole party because of their screwups. Why does Monica get the karmic punishment for their mistakes?

Big things that drive me crazy:
You know the episode where Ross ends up massaging an old guy ("The One with Rachel's Book")? He ends up doing that because Phoebe was staying with him, and a massage client came by while she was out. Ross thought that the client was a hot young woman, and so claimed to be a masseur; it turned out she was just dropping off her dad. Here's my question: what if Ross had succeeded in his goal of giving the hot woman a massage? He would have convinced her to undress and allow him to touch her naked body under false pretenses. I bet a competent prosecutor could make a case against Ross in those circumstances and get him convicted of Class A misdemeanor sexual assault. My point is: this one is low, even for Ross.

I hate the A plot in "The One with the Nap Partners." Ross and Joey accidentally fall asleep on a couch together and after waking up, incredibly embarrassed, realize it was "the best nap ever." Joey then tries to lure Ross into napping with him again. Now, clearly, the napping is treated like a metaphor for sex. ("Ha ha! Isn't it hilarious that they're treating this like they slept together?!") But it doesn't make any sense. Napping? Really? It would be more believable if they were actually sexually experimenting with each other. I'm just sayin'.

Ross makes a move on his cousin. C'mon, dude, that's sick. (Why is Ross so terrible?)

Pray indulge me while I break down a weak episode:
Again, it's not that seventh season episodes make me want to gouge my eyes out with a fork or anything, but they too often tend toward the lazy, the cartoonish, and the contrived. For my money, the worst episode of the season is "The One with the Cheesecakes."

Here's what happens: Chandler accidentally eats a cheesecake that was meant to be shipped to one of his neighbors; he and Rachel enjoy the cheesecake so much that they end up stealing another one from the same neighbor; the cheesecakes eventually turn them against each other as they fight over who gets to eat more. Joey and Phoebe have a standing friend-date, but when Joey cancels on her for a real date, Phoebe reads him the riot act; then when her long lost love David the Scientist Guy comes to town for one day, she decides she can't cancel on Joey and instead tries to rush through dinner with him to meet up with David later; when Joey finds out, he tries to thwart her. Monica has not been invited to her cousin's wedding, even though Ross has; she is furious and decides to go as Ross's date so she can rub it in her cousin's face that she's there; it turns out that she wasn't invited because she once slept with her cousin's new husband.

Each of those plots is problematic. The Chandler/Rachel plot is completely wrong for those characters. What about the nature of either Chandler or Rachel would make them care so much about some cheesecake that they'll rob some old lady? The writers clearly just wanted to pair those two characters and couldn't think of an organic way to do it. If it was Monica and Joey (who both, in their own ways, love food), it would make sense; as it is, it does not.

The Phoebe/Joey plot reeks of contrivance at every turn. We've never heard of these special Phoebe-Joey times (to the show's credit, neither have any of the other characters); it doesn't really make sense that Phoebe would be that mad at Joey in the first place; and why wouldn't Phoebe just explain to Joey that the love of her life was in town for one night only? (Also problematic: that David didn't try to find her earlier in his trip. Again, the show tries to explain that away, but it's inadequate.) None of the actions taken in that plot resemble the actions that real people would take.

Finally, there are two different problems with the Monica plot: first of all, there is no slight grievous enough to justify trying to ruin a bride's wedding day. Monica's decision to try to wreck--again--HER COUSIN'S WEDDING DAY--is unpardonable. Above and beyond Normal Monica Craziness. Secondly, and I actually find this more offensive, the upshot of the plot (that Monica had slept with the groom) would have been so much funnier if they had used anybody we'd ever seen on the show. We can only tell that it's an ex-boyfriend of Monica's by her reaction, but it would be far more comedically satisfying if, say, it was Fun Bobby who turned around to bring home the reason Monica hadn't been invited.

While this is the only individual episode this season this riddled with problems, the same sorts of thing happen repeatedly throughout the season. So it isn't a total disaster, but it is a bit of a mess.

Little things I love:
The dynamic between Joey and Cecilia Monroe, the soap opera actress played by Susan Sarandon, is actually very sweet. (He respects and admires--as opposed to objectifies/lusts after--her, and she doesn't tell him he's an idiot like his friends so often do [especially this season, it seems like]; she just appreciates his good intentions and rolls with it when he says something a little dumb.) They're surprisingly good together.

Rachel's short haircut is really cute. (I can't get my hair to do that--I've tried.)

The contest between Rachel and Phoebe over who gets to be Monica's maid of honor.

{removed, perhaps someday to return: video of Joey's explanation of "moo point."}

The game where you try to list all 50 states in six minutes.

That Joey lists 56 states (two of which are New England and South Oregon).

"The One Where They All Turn Thirty" is fun because of its non-chronological structure (switching among different thirtieth birthdays), and I like the contrast between Rachel's and Phoebe's goals for their thirties. (Rachel's are about when she wants to get engaged, get married, and start having her three children; Phoebe's are about bouncing for a mile on a hippity-hop, meeting a Portugese person, and going to sniper school.)

Kathleen Turner as Chandler's dad is delightful. Best big-name Friends guest star ever? Discuss.

  • Rachel: "I guess it wasn't Cupid that brought her here." Phoebe: "Nope, just a regular old flying dwarf."
  • Monica, distraught that Ross wants to play the bagpipes at the wedding: "Why is your family Scottish?!" Chandler: "Why is your family ROSS?!"
  • Phoebe, on the band Chandler wants to play at the wedding: "They suck so much that people actually die at their concerts. They just stop living."
  • Monica: "Who did we fight in World War I?" Rachel: " . . . Mexico?"
  • Ross: "Chandler, have you ever put on a black cocktail dress and asked me up to your hotel room?" Chandler: "No." Ross: "Then you are neither of your parents!"
  • Phoebe: "Why would you play hide and seek with someone you know is a flight risk?!"
  • Cecilia Monroe, asking where Joey had heard she was leaving Days of Our Lives: "Which writer? Was it bald or was it tall?"
The best line of the season is, when Ross is improvising that his Holiday Armadillo character is Santa's part-Jewish friend, Monica snarks, "Because armadillos also wandered in the desert?" Here's a little story about how good it is: my friend Lindsay was a TA for a class on the Jewish experience in America and one week borrowed my DVD to show "The One with the Holiday Armadillo" to her sections. She had to watch the episode six times in just a few days, but still laughed at that line on every viewing.

Let's talk about Chandler:
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this season is a low point for Chandler because it was a low point in the life of Matthew Perry. As I wrote in my notes when watching the seventh season premiere, "Matthew Perry lost like 30 lbs and 75% of his acting ability." There are even a few episodes where they worked around him by putting him in just one or two scenes, and that throws off the group dynamic.

"Chandler-humor" is one of Friends' distinguishing features; Chandler isn't the glue that holds the show together, exactly, but I would argue that more than the other character, he is the show's trademark. When Chandler's brand of humor is missing due to bad writing, strained acting, or simple absence of Chandler, it hurts the show. Of course, all of the members of the ensemble are important but, for example, an episode feels more "off" when Perry is out with prescription drug problems than when Schwimmer is scarce because he's directing the episode.

The more long-term injury to the show is that, at some point, the writers no longer knew who Chandler was supposed to be. At the very beginning of the series, Chandler is the most well-defined of all the characters. He's the funny guy; he's the guy who's sarcastic because he's insecure; he's the guy who's too immature to have a meaningful relationship but wishes he wasn't; he has a dull, soulless corporate job that he knows he's wrong for but which makes him successful; he makes fun of other people but he's just as quick to make fun of himself.

During the first six seasons of the show, the character stays consistent even while growing as a person. A series of serious relationships (with Janice, Kathy, and Monica) slowly teaches Chandler more confidence and courage--he still screws up sometimes when he's with Monica, but he knows when he does it and has the ability to make it better. He stops acting like a kid around Joey, but stays good friends with him. His job troubles mostly fade into the background.

But in Season Seven, the Chandler-based humor starts to turn from "Ha ha, another great Chandler zinger!" to "Ha ha, Chandler is pathetic!" People start to talk about him like he's not there or he's not worth noticing; he's inept at simple tasks; he can't perform sexually, etc. This trend continues in the last few seasons. Instead of becoming more confident in himself while everything goes right in his life, he inexplicably becomes less confident and less competent. Although it's not as noticeable as the devolution of Ross-humor, which depends more and more on Ross spazzing out in humiliating situations, it's a little sadder, because it depends on Chandler quietly becoming more and more pathetic. Maybe writing for a Chandler who continued to blossom and mature while still being funny was too hard. But I contend, based on the several seasons in which it did happen, that it was possible.

Top episodes:
"The One Where They All Turn Thirty"

"The One with Joey's New Brain"
or: "The One Where Ross Plays the Bagpipes" or: "The One Where Rachel and Phoebe Fight Over the Cell Phone"

"The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding"
or: "The One Where Joey Shoots a War Movie" or: "The One with the Pregnancy Test"

including the total classic:
"The One with the Holiday Armadillo"
or: "The One Where Phoebe Gets Joey Drums and a Tarantula" or: "The One Where Chandler is No Good at Bribery"
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Friday, January 1, 2010

Adorable Pictures!

I took some pictures of my nieces and nephews on our Christmas trip to Tennessee, and now that we're home and I've found the USB cord for my camera*, I will show some to you!

Sara dancing
David, his daddy, and the joy of football

Eliza being a comedian

I didn't even tell them to do this. These kids are pros.

Neal being avuncular

M. J. swinging
Matthew looking awesome.

*I wrote those two things like they're connected even though they're not. I had taken the cord with me to Tennessee; I just forgot where I'd put it until after we got home.
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