1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown: Dec 27 2009-Jan 2 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This is Issue 8 of the Weekly Tendown, my weekly wrapup of all the best cultural achievements from the past 7 days.  Last Week, I talked about Dwight Clark, the war on Christmas, John Peter Zenger and the Bad Girls Club.  What....what do you suppose we'll cover this week?

First:  Helicopter Dads and the Hot/Crazy Scale.

The year ended with two great sports stories - Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittendon apparently pulled guns on each other in the Washington Wizards locker room; which is a great old-school NBA move.  Somewhere, Quintin Dailey is complaining that there was no tmzsports when he was in the league, "There was this one time that me and Ennis Whatley pulled a train on this bartender from Princess Cruises.  Dude didn't know what hit him."  That's the thing about the new media trafficking in sports gossip; for years, we used to say "How could Babe Ruth (for example) play now?"  Hard to spend as much hooker time as the Babe did in full view of the writers and still be framed in heroic terms.  But what the Tiger Woods coverage forces us to ask is "How could Michael Jordan (for example) play now?"  Tiger didn't invent big league philandering; the best thing that ever happened to #23 is he had Bonds/Woods to take all the juice/strange flak.  If Jordan were two decades younger with the same "If I could be like Mike" heat, the gambling and the women and the (come on, let's get serious) PED use would have turned his life into Lindsay Lohan's.  The coke and upskirt pics and lesbianism would have been a curious addition to MJ's wikipedia entry. 

And - now former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach (who you can see here giving advice on where a young college man should go on a first date) locked Craig James's kid in a shed. 

Craig James, if you're unaware, was Eric Dickerson's other half at SMU a quarter-century ago (their nickname, DickerJames, didn't exactly have the staying power of Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside) and has spent the bulk of his adult life talking about college football on TV.  I don't know, in 2009, how many college football players are locked in sheds, but probably picking the kid of a guy who works for ESPN to so discipline was error.  It's been fun watching the ESPN heads go after Leach, a rare (maybe singular) case of their siding with a college football player over a coach in a he said/he said dispute (the Michigan players offseason Rich Rodriguez complaints come to mind). Those gymnastics aren't what puts this on the Tendown though - the unfurling of my favorite phrase of the week - helicopter dad - to refer to James, is why this is on Tendown (a helicopter dad is a father of a college athlete who flies in for practice to give his unwanted advice to the coaches). 

Mike Leach has always been a bit of a whack job (a few months ago he blamed his players "fat girlfriends" for their lethargic play) but that's what you like from your sports figures, a little color.  Give me Mike Leach over Bob Stoops any day.  Give me Agent Zero jacking Javaris Crittendon during a TV timeout over an unpaid dominoes bet over Jordan Farmar passing to Kobe any day. 

(Kobe's a good guy to remember if you've decided Tiger can't ever get past this bimbo eruption.  A checkbook can get your good name back.)

But Leach was successful, certainly in the context of Texas Tech history - and if you're successful, you get to be a whack job. 

There was an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Barney unveiled the hot/crazy scale.  To wit:

You can date a crazy girl, if she's hot enough. 
If she's just a little crazy, she just has to be an ordinary level of hot.
The crazier she gets, the hotter she has to be to compensate. 
If she's off the chart crazy, she needs to be Scarlett Johansson. 
But even then, some girls are too crazy to date.  You'll put up with Britney until she shaves her head and attacks your car with the umbrella.  Then you move on down the road. 

You knew that already, of course - and you also know you can plug in other variables into the hot/crazy scale and run a similar cost/benefit analysis.  HIMYM is good like that; in a Yadda Yadda Yadda or "not that there's anything wrong with that"  type of way, they've done bits which would catch the cultural zeitgeist if it were a more popular show (and, like Tiger, HIMYM is a victim of the Aughts, in HIMYMs case, it's the fragmentation of the culture - if it's 15 years ago, it gets to be Friends and Cobie Smulders becomes Jennifer Aniston {why can't she find love?  So sad.} but it's not then, it's now, and you don't need to watch a funny enough sitcom with pretty people, you've got eleven hundred channels and can download three different versions of Avatar to your phone). 

One way to apply the hot/crazy scale is at work.  You can be a pain in the ass and get away with it if you're good enough - whereas the guy next to you might only occasionally step out of line but still winds up in the crosshairs because he isn't worth putting up with.  Leach clearly rubbed up against Administration in a weird way for a few years, but he was hot enough that they put up with it.  He has a salary dispute, says a few weird things - that's okay, you're not thrilled with it but check out his ass! 

Then he locks Craig James's kid in a shed.  And now you tell him you think you should take a little break.  You're really focused on your career right now.  It's not him, it's you.  (We're about to find out how hot CBS and Hanes underwear finds Charlie Sheen, 'cause if Tiger Woods, one of the most famous men in the world, bleeds away endorsements for sex - what will happen to Charlie after threatening to kill another woman?)

That's the best thing that happened this week.  After the Jump - the rest of the Tendown!

And Ten:
1. Alvy Singer - the Real O.G.

This week, NPR re-aired episodes of Fresh Air from the past year.  Most notably, the Tracy Morgan interview when he broke down talking about his mother, and this interview with Woody Allen from June. 

Woody was pimping the movie he released this summer where Larry David marries Evan Rachel Wood; Terry Gross, delicately but clearly, asked if Woody was concerned that filmgoers might view the movie as autobiographical.  Woody said everyone's always been wrongly trying to analyze him via his films - that he was never a nebbishly outsider - that as a kid he was a jock, "always chosen first" for pickup games, that he wasn't particularly bookish - that he dropped out of college in his first year because he wasn't sufficiently interested in scholarship.  His supposedly autobigraphical characters are erudite, they're professional men of letters - but Woody Allen, he's the guy who goes to Knicks games in a t-shirt and sneakers.

You don't know me, Woody Allen is saying.  I'm not Alvy Singer.  Mark Twain wasn't Huckleberry Finn.  Fitzgerald wasn't Jay Gatsby.  We tell stories. 

Gross pressed - and here's where Woody went all gangsta - Gross said essentially - the people who most liked you, who really were moved by your art - were the people most let down, most disappointed, when you married Sun-Yi.  How does that impact you?

Woody:  I'm tight grill with the phony rappers; y'all might feel we homies. I'm like still, y'all don't know me, shit!  I'm tight grill when my situation ain't improvin. I'm tryin to murder everything movin, feel me?!

Okay, that's more of a paraphrase really, but what he did say was it's his life, and how could he live it if he internalized everyone else's expectations and disappointments?  He is living his life the way he sees fit.  He's his own ethical universe - David Hume once said "it's not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger."  Woody (and Hume) aren't claiming a special nobility to this selfishness - they're just saying the heart wants what it wants. 

And what's more gangsta than that?  He lives his life the way he sees fit.  Sure, you have to have FU money to do that, have to be a big baller to marry your stepdaughter, but on the hot/crazy scale, Woody clearly has some room left to maneuver, 'cause it's 20+10 and and he's still making bank. 

2. I Didn't Know They Gave out Rings at the Holocaust.
Monday morning at 7:30 I'll be standing in front of my Business Law class (I have 8 courses this upcoming term, which is a new record for me and until someone demonstrates otherwise, I'm going to say it's a worldrecord) so I closed out the week with a flurry of movies:

Funny People - isn't good.  It made AO Scott's 2009 top ten but shouldn't have - this isn't to say it's not worth seeing, it's ambitiously bad - what's most striking about the film is it exposes Apatow/Sandler/Rogen, shows the limits of their talents, all of which are different - but all of which are limited.  Instead of staying in their well lubricated lanes (greasy with cash, straight cash) they all tried to reach a little bit here.  It was a fail, but an interesting one.

The Hangover - is good. Solidly funny and worth your time.  I don't have any idea why it made a billion dollars, as it's no better than a funny, totally disposable comedy (as good, say as Old School not as good as Anchorman, that's where you'd slot it) but life changing isn't the bar it has to clear to be worth your 90 minutes.  At one point, during a driving sequence, my lady type friend said "this is when they should play some Rush on the TV" which I'd encourage you to use anytime, really.  Maybe during 60 Minutes tonight.  Andy Rooney could benefit from some Tom Sawyer.  Or maybe you could say it when not watching television at all.  It could be a catchphrase, like "Let the Pigeons Loose" or "Ride my Majestic Frigate". 

Adventureland  - is better.  In fact, it's the best film of this group by a good amount.  Kristen Stewart was better here than I thought she'd be, just based on finding her persona when out promoting those vampire movies annoying.  Shows to go you (I also rewatched The Spanish Prisoner, one of my favorite 90s movies).  If you can only get to one of these, that's your winner.  We watched the film with the closed captioning on (because I've gone deaf...have I failed to mention?  Son of a bitch.  Things slip past me sometimes. My car does seem to be fixed though.  3 separate December repairs later.  I put $2500 into a car with a blue book value of 2 grand) and, as the film is set in '86-87 (it's good to be old, my lady type friend is significantly younger than am I, and asked within a couple of scenes what the specific period of the film was - and I was able to locate it upon seeing a snatch of Reagan's "well, sort of looks like we sold weapons to Iran - sorry, not my fault" speech that, had a Democrat given it would have led to impeachment.  Obama bows to leaders of our allies and the conservatives call it treason; meanwhile Ollie North's drawing a Fox News paycheck for selling weapons to our enemies. I love the Republicans) there's lots of good 80s music for my nostalgic ears.  Anyway, my favorite part - There's a scene with "Dance Hall Days" in the background - which (hopefully silently) I immediately correctly identified...but the closed captioning did not, calling it "Safety Dance"

Me:  That's not no Safety Dance!  That's Wang Chung!  Closed Captioning fills this house with lies!  I will burn this movie to the ground!  I will put this in Tendown!  I must tell my 14 1/2 readers of this atrocity!  Lies!  Men Without Hats my ass!

My Lady Type Friend:  We need to talk.

And since I like being right more than...anything at all, it makes the Tendown this week.

3. Don't Crowd the Mushrooms
I also watched Julie&Julia (and have I Love You Man) sitting on my table for later today.  I liked it also - Meryl Streep was what you'd expect, I'm not sure I'd see her as a Best Actress lock though (it's funny, throughout the film I thought Aykroyd should have played her, and then I thought about how nothing Aykroyd's ever done has even approached the quality of his sketch work in the late 70s - and then I thought that Aykroyd should come back to SNL, and why not - I know SNL is a young actor's gig, and I like the current cast better than the current writing, I'm not looking to put Bill Heder out of a job, but it would be interesting if they were to announce, say, maybe an 8 episode run, where Dan Aykroyd were to return as a full cast member, I would totally watch) and I liked Amy Adams more than did most critics, who saw her half of the film as lesser.  It brought to mind -- okay, remember that Jewel lyric "in the end, only kindness matters"?  Yeah, Jewel's wrong.  Hot.  But wrong.  In most of the interactions in your life, I'd much rather have competence than kindness.  When I'm in the world, you can be nice to me if you like, but really, what I want is the guy who knows what he's doing.  Let me be surrounded on the roads by people who know how to drive, at shops/stores/restaurants by people who can do their jobs well, at work by smart, competent colleagues, and by superiors who understand what it is I do enough to value it (which means, by the way, to throw buckets of money at me and leave me completely alone except to occasionally shout throughout campus that I'm the finest man who ever put on a tie).  I want the bridges to have been well built, the electric grid to function properly, the food and water to have been sufficiently cleaned.  Give me cops and doctors who know how to do their jobs.  I like smart TV and well written books and articles.  From my haircut to my clothes to my bed and over the counter drugs - let the people behind them be blessed with competence first.  Be nice to me if you'd like - but for the love of god - do your job well, please.

For virtually every human interaction, give me competence.

But inside your house, when you turn to the person next to you (he says as someone who spent most of his life as the only person in his house) a little kindness goes a long way.  I can (largely) take care of myself, it's nice to be with someone who likes me.  At the end of a long day, only kindness matters. 

So - how does that relate to the film?  I've written before that Streep's the greatest film actor who ever lived, so this isn't a criticism of her - but I really liked Amy Adams in this move - I found her very...kind.  There's a value in that, when you're watching a film in your home - just liking someone.  Likability, I think, probably is responsible for the success of most television performers - if I were guessing, I'd say Julia Child was more likely successful less for her culinary precision and more because people just liked having her in their house.

And I enjoyed having Amy Adams in my house for 2 hours (no double entendre intended) she was warm and I rooted for her in all the ways the film wanted me to.  

4. I Also Liked Grandfather Clock.

As soon as the film ended, and my thought about Julia Child was formed - I asked "who did I find particularly warm as a child" - and the answer was Captain Kangaroo.  That's an overlooked show, I think, within the sweep of television history - it's been off the air a quarter century now, and there's not a lot of literature about it or available programming from it.  You can't get a box set, there's no anecdotal history written, no retrospective available.  It's gotten moved aside, I think, in an unfortunate way.  I don't know if this revokes my Cool Kids Club Card, but I'd trade a good cut of my 21st century entertainment options if I could have Bunny Rabbit in my living room a little more.  If anyone would like to write a real book about Bob Keeshan and the importance of Captain Kangaroo, I'd read it (for now, I'll buy Good Morning, Captain: Fifty Wonderful Years with Bob Keeshan, TV's Captain Kangaroo) .

5. On the Matter of Competence
-My comedy choices tend toward to edgy as opposed to the deft, but a solid, professionally crafted standup comedy special aired on Showtime this week.  It was Jake Johannsen's.  If you see Jake Johannsen as largely a Judy Tentuta/Emo Phillips/Bobcat relic of an era when no one would ever confuse "Safety Dance" and "Dance Hall Days" - you're wrong.  "I Love You" was just a really good hour of professional comedy by a guy who knows how to do his job.  That's what you'll be left with after seeing that show - that Jake Johannsen knows how to be a stand up comic - that in a Platonic sort of way, he is fulfilling the job for which he's best suited. 

6. Speaking of WorldRecords
-Hey, this week I wrote the latest chapter in the Counterfactual, and I think that might be the world's largest piece of wrestling fan fiction - which isn't necessarily an achievement that anyone but me will ever care about, but I only write it for me anyway {and maybe a mysterious benefactor, this week, after 4 years of writing the Counterfactual and 3 1/2 years of regular blogging on political and cultural issues, I put up tip jars in both blogs; it seems unlikely, given all the free content available online, that anyone will feel compelled to pay for my little sidewalk guitar warblings, but it makes me feel, at least in my own mind, as if I'm using all my assets to work my way from the collapse of the housing market.}.  I love my Counterfactual.  They say "write for yourself" and that's the epitome of that ethic, it fits specifically in that groove in my head that, for whatever reason yet to be articulated by neuroscience, I need to keep burrowing through.  And hey, could be that one day, some trust fund beneficiary or PowerBall winner or European Prince in Waiting will derive much pleasure from Curt Hennig's having won the WWF Title and bestow upon me and my lady type friend the modest riches we deserve.  Tip Jars! (I'm asked, will I take five bucks?  Uh, yes.  Yes I will.) 

7. Fal-Falcon?  How do You Pronounce That?
I guess Kathy Griffin got all f-bomb'y on New Year's Eve, I didn't notice at the time, and either it's intentional or it's not.  I don't care - she's as compelling as anyone who ever appears on television.  We may have 1100 channels, but they strive to be tasteless (meaning bland, not vulgar - if I could offer a cultural change for 2010, it would be that we'd start calling boring art tasteless, as that makes more sense to me than looking for reasons to be offended.  We complain about the "f word" in the same week where the majority of Americans come out in favor of torturing the underwear bomber. Doesn't matter that, apparently, he told the investigators what they wanted to know using conventional techniques.  It just makes us feel better to hurt people.  That's offensive to me) in a totally blanched, corporatized fashion. That's why my favorite TV moment of 2009 was Artie Lange's much criticized shot on Joe Buck Live (paraphrasing every sports analyst alive: "how dare he use such language, and in front of our sainted hero Brett Favre no less!  We're sorry, Brett.  We're so very, very sorry.  Slurp.  Slurp.  Gurgle.  Gurgle.) Kathy Griffin's constantly good TV in that she gives the appearance of a live wire; if she and Anderson Cooper were to become the new Regis and Kelly, I would DVR that shit 5 days a week. 

8. Hey, it's a New Decade!
Which is good, 'cause this one was sort of hard. 

Now, this decade will, obviously, be called the Teens when we refer to it historically.  A decade from now when we're doing the end of the year lists (in Mandarin, most likely) we'll all be talking about the end of the Teens and moving to the (Roaring?) 20s.  2020 will bring about all manner of vision related puns.  Let me suggest that in President Tebow's inaugural address (we'll ignore the age requirements, 'cause, you know, of the jump passing) he make some reference to "As we stand here in 2020, we can see clearly into our future, and the future's so bright for America I have to wear John 3:16 eyblack."  2020 Vision would be a good campaign slogan.  Someone should look into getting that URL when it becomes available. 

But while the decade will eventually be the Teens, obviously, the Teen years don't begin until 2013.  That means we have 3 years left.

Which will be the Tweens.  We have entered our Tweens.  For those of you who missed yours because the term did not exist when you were young (your author raises his virtual hand) Congratulations! We get to be Tweens!  Wheee!  We can subscribe to Justin Bieber's twitter and not feel all NAMBLA about it. 

Too far? 

9. The Best News Story of the Week  
Not only is the world's best professional wrestling in Japan (the best match I saw this week was from Big Japan in April, 4 1/2 stars, Miyamoto/TSasaki on a scaffold) but this week Japanese scientists invented transparent fish.  The fish are ten inches, can live up to 20 years, will be mass produced next year and can serve as a replacement to the dissection of fish.  It's a nice story.  

10. But an Even Better News Story...
The G Spot is a Myth!

All I'm saying is many women I have known owe me an apology. 

Not a myth, incidentally - that 6 inches is the largest unit of measure known to man. 

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


Blog said...

I think that I once cut a promo on my wife that was slightly longer than the Counterfactual. Does that count?

adwords said...

Will you be checking out Monday Night Wars 2: Electric Bugaloo?

Jim said...

I watch every episode of every show from both companies. There is fast forwarding involved and usually some grading I'm doing simultaneously, but I watch, yup.

Kirk said...

You can't correct people on the '80s and expect the lady friend to care. Similarly, I blow up when people suggest that Men Without Hats or, yes, even Wang Chung, were a "one hit wonder." The wife suggests, "No one cares but you."

And that's why I have to.

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