1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, January 3-9 2010.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


This is Issue 9 of the Weekly Tendown, my weekly look at the very best cultural happenings from the past 7 days; Last Week, I discussed Captain Kangaroo, the G Spot, Helicopter Dads, the Hot/Crazy Scale, and my favorite pretend Jay-Z lyric "you gotta be a baller to marry your stepdaughter"  What - what do you suppose we'll look at this week...

First:  Red on Red Crime.
My midweek blog this week offered my picks for the NFL playoffs and a discussion about how, as a fan of a team which does not make the playoffs, I root based on who I least dislike.  When I'm left with a game between, say, the Cowboys against the Favres, I really can't muster up even the energy to watch in an unlimited channel universe.  Right now, for example, Dallas is thumping the Eagles (meaning I'll have gone 2-0 today after my midday switch from Bengals to Jets) but I'm listening to this week's Adam Carolla podcasts and starting the Tendown; Carolla's good at this; I've forgotten with whom he was talking a few weeks ago, but he confessed to getting aroused when roughhousing with his young son - it was just from the friction, he wasn't looking to get handcuffed from the makeshift studio, but that's a helluva thing to admit; in previous incarnations of this blog I cut a little deeper into my life than do I now (art's tricky - you can write a terribly personal love song without fear that it will impact your professional life, but I've decided that blog posts really have to have compatible sensibilities to my professorial persona; work's a role no different than is this - but it's the one that feeds the bulldog, and I ain't got the energy to learn another trade) but I would never have cut to the bone like Carolla just to tell a joke. 

The reason I'm not watching the game is, when it's two teams I actively dislike, other than injuries (joke, he wishes he didn't have to add parenthetically) I've got nothing to root for (Mike Silver on KNBR this week tossed the Mike Vick to the Niners back up the flagpole; I wrote about this in the last offseason; there is no circumstance, not a move to Los Angeles, not setting fire to jersey #16 in midfield, not another dozen losing seasons which could cause me to renounce my Niner fanship - unless we sign Mike Vick.  Then I am out until he is gone and it will be the single most significant breakup of my life.)

But this week saw multiple outbursts of Republican on Republican violence and I ate up every bit of it.  Simple Jack went on his radio show and said phone calls from the birthers were "the dumbest thing I ever heard" and even suggested they might be Obama plants.  That got teabagger blowback, including by Alan Keyes who said Beck has "little or no understanding of the profound issues of principle" that motivate the whackos.  Which must have been quite a blow to Simple Jack, given how he's devoted so much of the past 36 months to misunderstanding American history and it's only now anyone finally notices.

That was the opening act - the middle was RNC Chair Michael Steele releasing a book, apparently without the knowledge of any top Republican leaders.  Steele was said to be devoting excessive time to promoting himself as opposed to the Party - Steele was criticized for taking fees to deliver speeches - Steele then said the Republicans couldn't take back the House in the midterm elections and wasn't sure if Republican candidates were ready to lead.  Steele's book takes shots at both Bush 43 and 41; and scores of staffers leaked all week the heated exchanges between the various Republican heavy hitters over Steele's suitability to continue as Chair.. 

The main event is on 60 Minutes this evening, when John McCain's campaign manager Steve Schmidt will say that Sarah Palin's disinclination to prepare for her debate with Joe Biden led to a simplfication of her prep to avoid a "debacle" and presumably other Sarah Palin is only occasionally acquainted with the truth stories.

This doesn't even get to the 2009 Republicans v. 2002 Republicans from this week as the heads predictably opened their faces to rip Obama for waiting 3 days to discuss the Underpants Bomber when Bush's 6 day wait to talk about the Shoe Bomber went without criticism.  Or that the current trial in the criminal courts system emboldens our enemies, giving them a platform to spew hateful rhetoric - but the similar domestic terrorist trials held over the previous decade demonstrated America's strength and its principles.  Here's America's Mayor, who this week also said that the United States wasn't a victim of domestic terrorist attacks under Bush (continuing a weird right wing meme that's sprouted up in recent weeks, Dana Perino and Mary Matalin also said something similar).  It's interesting that it just goes accepted that Bush is wholly without blame for 9-11 occuring on his watch; Matalin actually said the Bush Administration "inherited" 9-11; had President Gore gotten a brief entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the US" in a Counterfactual Bush v. Gore goes 5-4 the other way universe, I assume the Democrats would not be as successful in claiming a lack of blame.

It's just schadenfreude.  Nothing here will salvage the value of my South Florida townhouse (David Corn this week predicted that a full 50% of US mortgages will be underwater by the end of 2011) and I don't mistake the red states cannibalizing themselves for positive electoral news.  But it's fun.  And daddy likes to have his fun. 

That's the best thing that happened this week - after the Jump - the Rest of the Tendown!
Ah, the rest of the tendown....

1. Friendship: It's Like Stealing

The best sneaky lefty-ish TV show that you're just not going to get a chance to see before ABC finishes burning off the episode order is Better Off Ted.

I watched last season, it was quirky and funny enough to watch but I didn't give it much thought - this year though, BOT has taken a full broadside at life working in a modern corporation in a way rarely seen on American television.  In one of this week's episodes, a previously unseen office drone named Jenkins dies at his desk during a particularly difficult project push at Veridian, the tech. corp at which the show is set.  The company goes into action with a full scale propaganda campaign to drive the employees to work harder in memory of Jenkins (Workstrong wrist bracelets, posters with Jenkins face that include slogans like "Taking Breaks Makes Me Sad", elevator motivational videos that suddenly include Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" -- yes, that's what going to work consists of in 2010 - it's like we've all been Rick Rolled).

There is a pretty big disconnect with most popular entertainment and the current world circumstance (aside from that Walmart commercial that talks about women loving "the hunt of the save") we don't necessarily see our lives reflecting back at us from television - but like the Mike Judge cult classic Office Space did a generation ago, Better off Ted gives off the scent of current corporate truth.  I sat once in a meeting where it was explained to us how we'd be losing half of our annual vacation without accompanying compensation (no unions after all and enough periodic layoffs to keep the fear of speaking out individually alive) and part of the explanation was that some members of the faculty preferred to stay at work during their vacations (just as there are some members of the faculty who have free tutoring sessions on Saturdays).  It's true.  It's Stockholm Syndrome, but it's true.  On this episode of BOT the workers cheered their 14 hour workdays, stunned only when Ted attempted to leave at 8 PM "you can't go home yet, it's still dark out".  We're deep into decades of "the corporation is our only salvation, full devotion to it is your way to a good life" propaganda that thoughts to the contrary, even as its your body being fed into the sausage grinder, are heretical.

2. No End in Sight
The two best pieces I read this week were this one by Bob Herbert in last Sunday's NYT in which he notes the previous decade was the worst economically in modern times (despite the hard, hard attempt by the right to blame it on the current Administration - which didn't create the problem, it just is unwilling to brave the noise that would be created if it enacted large enough proposals to help solve it):

The real story right now is the entrenched suffering (with no end in sight) that has been inflicted on scores of millions of working Americans by the Great Recession and the misguided economic policies that preceded it.

From Saturday's Chicago Tribune, there were 85,000 layoffs in December, ten times the expected number.  The word "hopeless" is increasingly used in pieces regarding the state of the economy. 
But the better piece I ran across this week was this virtual must read piece (and if your house is underwater it is an absolute requirement - really, don't continue reading the Tendown, I'll catch you in a few days; nothing I have to say to you is a fraction as important) "Underwater and Not Walking Away" by an Arizona law professor Brent White who compellingly argued that right now, today, the economic circumstances are such that millions of Americans are making drastic financial mistakes by continuing to pay mortgages on homes which have no realistic chance of ever returning to their pre bubble bursting values.  "Woodheads" - is what White refers to such people, people who understand the nature of their issues, but instead of conforming their behavior to the reality of a new marketplace just plow straight ahead, acting in a manner contrary to what they know to be better decision making.  The piece was disputed in numerous quarters - but almost all of the criticism focused on exactly what White discusses - which is there is a systemic, multi-platform moral pressure to remain in one's house, to 'live up to" agreements that has fallen solely on individuals and has been totally ignored by larger financial players.   The bank with whom you have your mortgage looks at you (and everything else) solely from the bottom line - the corporation that passes out those Workstrong bracelets will only employ you until the second you stop serving its bottom line - whenever someone is saying that you should act not out of financial self interest but out of loyalty to god, country, neighbors or banks - the argument made in this piece is that you should be watching your wallet.  If you're ever in a relationship (be it personal or professional or financial) and whereas you are expected to look to interests other than your own - the other party is aggressively constituted to look out only for itself - consider moving down the road.   

3. Hell Freezes Over

Monday night, Shawn Michaels hugged Bret Hart

Here's why the personal rivalry between Shawn and Bret was so compelling - their characters disliked each other for the same reasons the men protraying them did.  Co-workers, teammates, actors - whatever - they dislike each other all the time.  It's not even rare for the two people at the very top of a particular company not to like each other (I remember being very young and hearing about Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams not speaking to each other on the set - no, I'm not certain how I had access to in 1980).

But Shawn and Bret didn't dislike each other because of some card game on a plane that went bad - they viewed the world and their professional responsibilities in it in profoundly different ways - ways that informed the evolution of their characters - ways that came to exist in the storyline (or that existed in the storyline and then came to be in real life - in that way, the 1996-7 Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart storyline prefigured the scripted reality show, Shawn and Bret were the Spencer Pratt/Lauren Conrad of their time).  And that intoxicating mixture of real life emotion with scriptwriting made their interactions feel real - and that feeling of reality (as opposed to actual reality) is when professional wrestling storylines (which are more often than not, pretty dopey) become compelling. 

And a dozen years after Montreal, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart made up on tv this week. 

It was a helluva thing.  It was also an unbelievable error.  Had that same hug been put off until Wrestlemania it would have been one of the biggest moments in WWF/WWE history. Even given the apparent direction of the booking (Shawn v. Undertaker, Bret v. Vince) it wouldn't have taken too many steps to get us to that moment in 26 (Instead of Vince going low on Bret, Bret knocks Vince out to open RAW - they don't do any Shawn/Bret segment, instead Hart Dynasty beats DX to close the show with Bret asistance to get even with  Shawn; Bret leaves, obviously, having accomplished both of his goals - Shawn, in the following RAW, tells Vince, desperate now for Bret to return so he can get revenge, that he knows how to get Bret to come back, and in return secures from Vince the WM rematch with the Undertaker; Shawn heel attacks the Hart kids on Smackdown, really brutalizing both, leading to a show ending save by the Undertaker and a staredown between those two men that jumpstarts the program - on the following RAW, Vince brings the still bruised Hart kids out, forces them into an immediate title defense against Jericho/Show, who wouldn't have lost to DX last week because they were replaced by the Harts - the Harts lose and then Vince fires them.  Vince gloats as long as they can do it - saying he has finally rid his company of every vestige of that family - and eventually Bret will return, either at the Rumble or the February PPV, to make a challenge to Vince - that challenge is for the streetfight at Mania, if Bret wins the Hart kids get their jobs back and get a tag title shot the night after 26 against whomever the champs may be.  It's in that build that they do a Shawn/Bret in ring confrontation as part of the "Bret had a stroke, he can't get in the ring even for his family - it's foolish and unsafe" part of the program - they can tease a physical encounter but Shawn will make it clear he's sparing Bret because he thinks a superkick to the temple might kill him.  Once they establish that - then everytime Bret's on (which should be not that many times) there's an element of danger - because he wants to fight - wants to fight Vince, wants to fight Shawn - but faces and heels alike don't want to see Bret in a ring.  At Mania, Undertaker beats Shawn again in a match that, just like last year, Shawn wrestles as the heel but his losing performance babyfaces him again - and then Bret beats Vince - maybe Vince, in the program, has used one of the younger workers in a bodyguard role - a Mike Knox would be a good choice - and postmatch Knox readies to attack Bret - but Shawn saves - and then they do the fake superkick/hug spot they did on RAW this week. And scene.)

But it was still pretty good.  You know, what they did. 

On another wrestling note I heard a Roddy Piper interview this week in which, discussing Wrestlemania VIII, he could not recall if the relevant foreign object in his match with Bret was the ringbell or the IC title belt. 

This is shocking to me and the four of you who care.  My brother and I have been saying "what the hell, use the bell" for the last two decades and Roddy Piper doesn't remember the spot. 
4. The Next President of Nigeria?

The President of Nigeria apparently is non compos mentis, he's been out of the public eye for going on two months (the story is appendicitis) but the word is he's reached the end of the line.

If that's so - then the current Vice-President would presumably (I don't know the Nigerian line of succession, sorry) take office.  His name is Goodluck Jonathan.

Goodluck Jonathan!

The name of the sous chef on Chef's Academy is Steven Kitchen; Rhode Island has a Senator named Sheldon Whitehouse - to that glorious list, let us add the name of Nigerian Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan (and also wish him well in the Kentucky Derby).

5. Jones Sugar Free Green Apple Soda

I've been known to enjoy the diet soda.  My drinks of choice, Pepsi One and Diet Coke w/Splenda both contain (much needed) caffeine.  I do drink multiple caffeine free diet sodas, but none blow my skirt up - except for Jones Sugar Free Green Apple.  It is hard to find, but a mid-week trip to Big Lots secured me a dozen bottles (which are significantly better than the cans).  I also found a $600 sectional couch that I like much more than does the person who would need to agree on such a purchase. 

I'm drinking one (soda, not couches) right now.  The inside of the bottle cap tells me I just saved a child's eyesight.  Tell me somethin' I don't know, Chuck. 

6. I'm Gonna Live Forever!
No amount of diet soda will keep me from balloning up; that's a fight I'm destined to lose.  Fortunately, in this week's Greatest Story Ever, Japanese doctors say it's better to be overweight at 40 (I'm 39).  Better!  Wooooo!

7. But Even Better Than That Is This!

Click it.  Trust me. 

8. The Curiously Gay Thing Said by a Sports Analyst This Week
Joe Theismann, in the NFL Network's pregame show before the Bengals/Jets game discussing the Bengal QB talking about the temperature:

"Carson said to me, 'I'm a guy from the waist down.'"

9. The Red Tape Chronicles
This is a good consumer protection blog by the author of this Stop Getting Ripped Off: Why Consumers Get Screwed, and How You Can Always Get a Fair Deal new book. 


And that's Scottie Pippen, perhaps unwisely choosing new teammates for his comeback tour. 

That's this week's Tendown - I'll see you next time...if there is a next time...


Blog said...

"This week's" Greatest Story Ever was published on October 12th!

I think that this story should have won.

Kirk said...

Jones Soda is the official soft drink of Qwest Field. You could get Seahawks-themed flavors like "Sweet Victory" and "Locklear's Feet."

Most of that is true.

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