a jim jividen blog

Here's the thing. I'm watching one of these shows on the Cooking Channel featuring food trucks. There's a Scottish expat making fish and chips; in a thick brogue he somewhat wearily explains his irritation with Americans who habitually order a side of tartar sauce: "tartar sauce is basically gherkins." That's this blog. I claim no particular insight, no revelation. If you enjoy the flavor, great, but this blog is basically gherkins.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Weekly Tendown April 24-30 2011


Dear Internet:

Jay Cutler and Kristin Cavallari are getting married.

Now, I ain't saying she's a gold digger.  But she ain't messin' with no broke Art Schlichter.

Here's Tendown 74.

1. Obama Gives Thumbs Up to Fast Five




Roger Ebert gave a thumbs up to the latest Fast and The Furious movie this week.  Here's an excerpt from his review. It gives the flavor of the whole:

What it all comes down to is a skillfully assembled 130 minutes at the movies, with actors capable of doing absurd things with straight faces, and action sequences that toy idly with the laws of physics. That can be amusing for some people, not so much for me.

What's Ebert saying here - I don't like this movie, it's dumb, but there are others who like this sort of thing, and so, thumbs up.

You've heard that type of review before, I imagine - in fact, on the same episode of At the Movies that Ebert reviewed Fast Five, Christy Lemire offered the following about Prom:

chock full of high-school movie clich├ęs....There is a plot, sort of....Essentially, this feels like a Disney Channel TV show stretched out to fit the big screen...


Oh, I didn't mention.  This is a thumbs up review.  Sorry.  


for its target audience — girls who are several years away from having to pick out that perfect dress — this will be a safe, enjoyable and validating little diversion. 

Hey, I don't like this movie, it's trite, but there are others who like this sort of thing, and for those people, thumbs up.

This type of criticism seems like an abrogation of responsibility to me; I'm ostensibly a college professor, and often, at the risk of offending prevailing corporate sensibilities, I'll have to swallow my classroom thoughts regarding contemporary issues - I do it because my personal stakes are high: I lose my job, I can't pay my rent - but every time it happens I recognize that, in a broader sense - a Platonic sense - I'm not fulfilling my social role.  A professor should occasionally be able to profess.  If we're going to invest the resources necessary to provide me two graduate degrees, you want to inject my thoughts into a classroom, which is the forum structured to facilitate those thoughts.  The stakes aren't that high for the film critics; they're just pandering to dumb people and children.  If you're a film critic, you can't be afraid to criticize - and if your analysis of a film is "it's dumb" - then your review can't be a positive one.  Because here's the result - the result is Fast Five will cut a commercial this week that says "Ebert: Thumbs Up" - and filmmakers who make dumb movies, and moviegoers who watch dumb movies, will be emboldened by that review.  I guarantee you people will walk out of Fast Five not saying "that was a dumb movie but I enjoyed the adrenaline" - they will say "that's a good movie, the critics like it - this is what a good movie looks like."

Why are there now 10 nominees for Best Picture for the Oscars?

Because of complaints like this from Peter Bart, angered that the Academy Awards aren't honoring the pictures with the biggest box office; instead choosing "arthouse" movies, he writes with a sneer.  You've heard this analysis, right?  If you've missed it - check next year.  It isn't that people like Bart are saying the Oscars should be the Billboard Awards, renaming Best Picture, " Picture with the Most Consecutive Weeks on the Hot One Hundred" - what they're advocating is more pernicious - defining what it means to be "best" as "most popular".

That's how this works.  It's how the dullards come to believe themselves smart.  Ebert gives a positive review to a movie he knows is stupid; Bart says the most popular movies are really the best movies.  And year by year, generation by generation - the idea of  "quality" as a quantifiable element slips further and further away from us.  We're Playing Dumb Forward. I'm giving an assignment in my critical thinking course this week; explain why Americans don't believe science.  Do some reading on that issue - you'll find pieces saying something like "it's really the scientists fault, they're elitist, they don't have a language to talk to the regular people."  In the United States, knowing more makes you an elitist - but recognizing the widening wealth gap between the mega, monster rich and everyone else means you're practicing class warfare.  If we had a news organization as doggedly determined to expose the War on Facts as Fox is to prop up the War on Christians maybe we'd turn this around.

I thought about all of this when Obama released his "long-form birth certificate" this week.

Look, you know I'm an American.  I know I'm an American.  But there are plenty of dumb people out there who believe any idiot thing they see on Fox News, and for them, here's the second birth certificate I've released in 3 years.


The birthers won't be chastened.  Trump said he had accomplished something really important.  Not, "I guess I was wrong.  Proven wrong."  But "look what I did!"


Dumb is rewarded. That will be the lesson learned.   




2. The 7 Things I Hated About Andrew Baggarly's Book About the World Champion Giants
I've read A Band of Misfits: Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants and Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now--Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything.

You could read either but don't need to.  The Sirota book is both obvious (Red Dawn was a propaganda film; who didn't understand that A-Team and Rambo were building a right wing narrative?) and overly stated (Family Ties embraced the spirit of the 60s as opposed to rejecting it).  More troubling is Baggarly's book, the official history of my World Champion Giants.

In my World Series prediction, my concern with what I believed would be a Giants win was that some would see it as opportunity to beat Barry Bonds over the head.  Here, for example, is Gene Wojciechowski

When Bonds and his toxic presence was finally removed by the hazmat people after the 2007 season, the Giants began to win more games. Not a lot at first, but enough to realize that Bonds' forced departure was like an emergency tracheotomy on the franchise's windpipe. The Giants could finally breathe again.


Forget the World Series appearance in 2002, the other postseason appearances, having the best record in baseball in 2000, winning 103 games in 1993, and the San Francisco Giants never one time having won a World Series in their over a half century of history - Bonds was dragging the Giants down.  And that's why immediately after he left...3 years later...the Giants won the World Series.

Here are the starting position players on the 2010 San Francisco Giants who ever played even one game with Barry Bonds.


Yeah, that's none.  Schierholtz and Molina were on the 2007 Giants, but that's it for bats.

There were arms - the embryonic versions of Cain/Lincecum/Wilson/Sanchez all played with Barry - and it was Zito's first year with the club.  If somehow Gene would like to make the case that the development of the pitchers was being curtailed by Bonds being a clubhouse distraction, he's welcome.  Otherwise, he's just making up stuff.

I don't much care about that.  It's annoying - dumb and demonstrably dumb - but not particularly important.

Baggarly's book, however, will sit on my shelf as long as books do.  It's the official story of my Giants winning the World Series.  It's not some crappy ESPN columnist embarrassing himself, it's the official history.

From page 16:

Most baseball fans around the nation, convinced they were seeing a pumped up, steroid fueled sham, sat on their hands when Bonds broke Hank Aaron's home run record in 2007.


He (Bonds) whined for another contract.


From page 87

It didn't matter if his reality series cameramen bothered you, if he refused to be available to pinch hit, or if he decided to change out of his uniform before the game ended.


Note, Baggarly's not saying the home run record was a "sham" - as that would require evidence as to the impact Bonds's PED use had on his home run totals, that would require a broader discussion about the quality of pitching faced by Bonds as opposed to Aaron - or the size of the parks in which they hit.  That would require an understanding of context, and how it is we should properly think about eras of offensive inflation, or types of medical advances.

Instead, Baggarly's saying - most people just said "aw, this is bullshit" - and whatever most people think has to be valid.  And there was a reality series documenting Bonds for a few months, and presumably there were one or two occasions where Bonds didn't pinch hit or changed clothes...out of a 15 year Giants career.  15 years in which, when you look at the advanced metrics, Bonds produced more value than any San Francisco Giant ever.  More than Mays.  More than McCovey and Cepeda combined.  And led the Giants to their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th greatest regular seasons in the history of San Francisco baseball.

But that's not part of the official history of the 2010 World Champion Giants.  Instead, the greatest San Francisco Giant ever gets slapped.

3. Quiz Time
This woman has just:

A. Become the next contestant on the Showcase Showdown
B. Seen Oprah Winfrey.
C. Suffered a charley horse during the audition round of American Idol.
D. Learned that Peyton Hillis will be on the next Madden cover.

It's B, from the best thing I saw on television this week, Oprah's behind the scenes documentary that airs on her cable channel.  Oprah went out of her way to clean Jennifer Hudson's clock (she deserved it) in the best episode of (for my dollar) the most interesting thing Oprah's ever done.

The next Madden cover was chosen by fan vote, in a tournament format.  In 2010, Peyton Hillis had the only good season for a white running back in about a decade, and that's all it takes, apparently, for NFL fans to vote for you.  It would be harder to keep playing the race card if people would stop dealing it.


4. I Write The Stories
I wrote this week:

This was my Mock Draft if it included figures from the royal wedding. My Athlete of the Month for April.  My Round 2 picks for the NBA playoffs.  There's also a small new post over in the Counterfactual.

I've seen 2 four star matches this week, both from DGUSA from March - Aries v. Yamato and Tozawa v. Pac, that one was 4 1/2 stars and has made the Match of the Year post.

5. Moratorium!
I caught up on Sister Wives this week.  They complained about being followed by paparazzi.

This allows for one of my favorite games - Moratorium! on anyone complaining about their privacy being invaded by paparazzi while simultaneously being filmed on a reality show.  "Why can't they leave us alone!" they say as their show's cameras roll.  "This is a private moment" for only ourselves and the TLC audience.

It's obnoxious.  Not so much for the Browns, although they can't do it either - but the biggest previous violators were Tori Spelling and her husband, who don't have any semblance of a "we didn't know what we were signing up for" excuse (and my hunch is the paparazzi Tori was complaining about were probably tipped to her location by Tori's people to generate a sense that something was happening on her show.

Moratorium.  Don't complain about a loss of privacy on your reality show.

The other thing about Sister Wives was the revelation that Kody (the word douchebag is being tossed around overly readily in our current culture, but it fits here) that Kody's father is married to the mother of one of his wives.  Meaning, not only are they polygamists - but he and one of his wives are stepsiblings (I don't think any of the relevant marriages are legal, that's not the point).

That should have been part of the initial selling package for this show.  How is it we can go a season and a half into a show and not know Kody and one of his 4 wives are brother and sister?

6. The Dumb Thing They Said On Fox News This Week
Steve Doocy, angered that a court will enforce what has been the law since World War II.


7. The Racist Thing Glenn Beck Said This Week
Simple Jack enjoys calling Obama a thug.  Limbaugh does it all of the time.  I can't wait for all the white candidates to have to produce their "long form" birth certificates.  I remember how exciting it was to see Reagan's.

8. War on Easter Continues.
Fox continued their embedded coverage of the War on Easter this week.  They do good work over at Fox.

And remember, the tornadoes that killed hundreds this week had nothing to do with climate change - but instead were god's wrath.

I wanted to let the Christians go on about their business this week, I did, but while I'm here, how about this one, gays caused the mortgage crisis.

9. My Congressman's the Best

Big week for Allen West.

What's wrong with America?

Women have been neutering men.

Wondering if I'll show up on youtube hectoring him about supporting both tax cuts for billionaires and drastic social program spending cuts for the working class (such as at the town halls this week in Orlando or Michigan or Kenosha or Arkansas  or New York or you could just watch this compilation video of town halls across the country from the past 7 days right here.)?  Stop wondering.  He's only taking prescreened town hall questions.

10. I'm Struggling Just Like Everyone Else
The 23rd richest member of Congress, with a net worth of between 6 and 50 million dollars, says he's struggling like everyone else.

Speaking just for this member of the group "everyone else" - I work 7 days a week and if I miss one paycheck I can't pay my rent.

So, if he's struggling the same way as I am - I feel really badly for him, and hope he can use his status to aid people like us.

Jackass.

That's all.  I'll be back next time...if there is a next time...

Your pal,

Jim