Friday, September 30, 2011

Deadspin: Undervaluing 'Moneyball'

The new Brad Pitt vehicle based on Michael Lewis' bestselling book and a script by the authors of Schindler's Facebook has been getting unfairly blasted by exactly the sorts of people who you'd think would be in love with it: sports nerds. The negative reactions seem to come down to upset superfans, churlish nitpickers and cynics who see the movie as a chance to pimp their criticisms of the book again.

They're all wrong, of course, but funnily enough this was a lesson I learned because of — not in spite of — old people. Find out what you can learn about movies from sitting in a flickering antechamber to the hereafter with a bunch of people whose eternal Subway Club Cards are just one punch away from the big freebie.

Click the East Coast Bias-Sized Jeter to take this incredible journey:

Also, please come back this week as we recommence the annual death march into the 2011 MLB Postseason. Until then, feel free to check out the playoff and Series blogs from the 2010 MLB Postseason and the 2009 MLB Postseason.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Criterion Recollection: Jesus the Ripper

Note: We, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? are proud to present Criterion Recollection, an analysis of the popular Criterion Collection of historic and unique achievements in film. Your guide is Mark Brendle, a former media critic for and a short-fiction writer. Brendle lives in the Pacific Northwest in a small post-recycled yurt adjacent to America's largest family-owned retail video and book store, Art Trough. When not writing or staring purposefully at culture, Brendle works as a fair-trade coffee beanist. You can follow him on Twitter.

The Messiah and Murder: Spine #132, The Ruling Class (1972)

Using a schizophrenic Earl who's cured of his messianic complex by choosing instead to believe that he's Jack the Ripper, Peter Medak's Buñuelesque The Ruling Class levies harsh social commentaries against established power hierarchies like the British aristocracy and the Christian church. Medak's adaptation of Peter Barnes' exceptional, darkly comic and surreal play can be read as a delicious skewering of class antagonism and a well-meaning but trite expose on the hypocrisy of power, but its true meaning lies in the necessary existence of the extremes of both The Christ and The Ripper.

Medak and Barnes implicate the structure of power in this schizophrenic split right away, introducing us to Jack's predecessor, Ralph, the 13th Earl of Gurney. After delivering a speech on the noble heritage of England, he returns to his bedroom to perform autoerotic asphyxiation in a tutu. The tutu might strike modern audiences as a cliché of crazy, but as Ralph prepares his ritual, one that he has obviously performed for some time, he speaks about how, for a judge, who has the power of life and death, all of life's other experiences fail to produce satisfaction. To experience a high close to that of sending men to the gallows, he must engage in bizarre and dangerous behavior. The ritual goes wrong; Ralph kicks over the stool and hangs himself, finally achieving full identification with the victims of his justice.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Downfall of Horse_ebooks

"Meet Trouble, the incorrigible rogue colt that refuses to be ridden but later goes on to discover deep within himself the... most dreadful thing that can ever happen to a horse owner... BLACK FURY... ...AND much, much."
— Horse E. Books
That's how the stories used to go, brilliant disconnected snippets resolving over a day into a sliced-up narrative or one cobbled together by the reader, through his or her playful imagination. Along with hysterically funny sudden interjections, like a harmlessly crazy person on a street corner, that's what we used to get, before we supposedly lost Horse_ebooks, when something changed, almost imperceptibly.

I always wanted to call it "Horsey Books," thinking it was a play on words. The actual name is "Horse_ebooks," with or without the space, which is what you find on its Twitter feed, and which is probably just coincidence. Spam usually isn't punny.'s Johnny "Docevil" Titanium first wrote about the account and gave the skinny on it thus:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo: Fracking-Free for You and Me

Note: every week, news aggregators address hundreds of worthwhile stories or opinions that never catch on, either because they lack an obvious follow-up or because sites that live off ad revenue would rather bang high-traffic drums over and over. Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo provides a summary of good stuff you might have missed. He has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

The Lamb Lies Down on Wall Street: Selling America by the Pound

Kelly and Gil Bates, good friends of the Duggars and similarly creepy quiverfull evangelical Christians, are expecting their 19th child. The Quiverfull movement believes that husbands and wives should have as many children as God wants them to, and as such, do not use birth control and have over a dozen kids. Apparently miscarriages aren't God's way of saying "no more," as Kelly Bates is undergoing hormonal therapy to repair her uterine wall. This is something that doesn't seem appropriate to joke about, even with the inconsistency in ideology and the idea of reducing the purpose of children to arrows made for casting in theological warfare, until you consider that the quiverfull movement is inherently misogynist and has liberal sprinklings of white supremacy.

Republicans in Virginia are one State Senate seat away from having total control of the State's legislative process. They have twice as much cash on hand as Democrats, and Democrats need that money more: 12/16 Republican Senators face no opposition, while 16/20 Democratic Senators have a Republican opponent in the fall's elections. Their sales pitch is completely intangible and non-specific:
"The focus of our race is on jobs and the economy,” Mr. Black said. "The Democrats under the Obama administration have drawn us to where our economy is near collapse, and Republicans are going to have to bring it back."
It's also the exact same strategy which gave the party a stunning victory in the 2010 Congressional elections, so hopefully Virginians are ready for more of the same great pro-citizen victories passed since the beginning of the year, only on a state level.

It's an especially exciting time for Virginia's elections with not only the upcoming complete Republican takeover of the State Senate, but famed Republican George Allen running for the Senate on the bigger level, after a humiliating defeat in 2006. While some attribute Allen's 2006 loss to his use of a racial slur when calling on a reporter (one he would later claim to be a "made-up word" that just happened to correspond with the poor guy's race), it's highly doubtful that, as the Washington Post bizarrely claims, his baggage this time around will be his intensely close ties to the coal industry.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Emmys Are for Idiots, Part IV: 'Modern Family' Is Trash

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) held its annual awards show last night. Last year, I looked at the Emmys' structural badness and historical oversights in Part I, then covered all the major nominees and nominations in Part II and Part III. Many of those shows were nominated again this year, so going into this year's slate in any detail will only run the risk of repeating myself too much.

Funnily enough, I do want to repeat myself and then add a few comments about Modern Family, but only after some stray thoughts about pleasant surprises and expected but still unfortunate disappointments this year.

A friend and I found ourselves chatting over the nominees last night, before the awards started, and both of us thought Melissa McCarthy (an overweight woman) and Peter Dinklage (a dwarf) were a lock to win. Neither of us thought them undeserving, far from it. Dinklage has been hilarious in Elf, 30 Rock and Death at a Funeral, and he was a compelling and powerful lead in The Station Agent. Although I haven't seen enough of him in Game of Thrones, what little I have caught appears to be some of his best work. McCarthy's received fewer plaudits over the years, but she provided an irreplaceable comedic and emotional cog in Gilmore Girls for the entire series run, something for which she was wrongly overlooked.

What struck us as funny was that we, independent of each other, both looked past these two actors' undeniable strengths and just assumed that they'd win just as much for their gimmick social value. The actual probity of ATAS voters is so dubious that even what should be a mortal lock on a talent level, in Dinklage's case, seems likelier only if you attach an unnecessary political rider to the vote. You can easily imagine an avatar of the perfect ATAS voter — doesn't watch much beyond network fare, three-camera sitcoms, cop procedurals and primetime soaps — thinking that Dinklage was a lot worse than someone else, somehow, then voting for him because, "Voting for a dwarf makes a statement about the ATAS." Or, in McCarthy's case, "We need to reaffirm positive self-images in heavy women, so let's go with her."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Derrick Mason Isn't Helping

Thursday night, the NFL Network aired part one of Bill Belichick: A Football Life, a two-part documentary of the New England Patriots 2009 season, whose primary appeal is seeing the season through head coach Bill Belichick's eyes and hearing him mic'd for every game, practice and coaches meeting.

During the Week Four game on October 4, in which the Patriots went on to defeat the Baltimore Ravens 27-21, Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason trash talks at the Patriots sideline, prompting Belichick to fire back in kind: "Oh, fuck you, Mason, just fuck you. Why don't we talk after the game, all right? Just shut the fuck up." Mason laughs and pulls a quasi-"u mad, bro?" face, at which Belichick notes that the Pats have the lead by adding, "Can you look at the scoreboard?"

Here's the thing: none of this mattered for almost two straight years. Nobody commented about it; Mason didn't complain or consider it worth putting on the record in any serious way. So it's seems doubly asinine that he tweeted this yesterday:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Scholarships and Compensation: The Intercollegiate National Lie

Aside from reminding Americans for the next 15 minutes that history has actual value, Taylor Branch's devastating article, "The Shame of College Sports," finally fully legitimized the discussion of paying college athletes for their performance. It certainly didn't approve the notion by fiat, but simply allowing it to enter the conversation as an equally reasonable proposition was triumph enough.

Prior to its publication, it sometimes it took actual effort to find someone willing to entertain the idea. Proposing that college players take home paychecks usually provoked reactions that ran the gamut from mocking laughter to intense moral outrage. It's hard to explain why. In a country where you can monetize your Twitter feed, exploit your pop-star child, and have people applaud the commodification of virtually anything, college football has nestled in a protective embrace of absurd reverence for amateurism, swaddled in flimsy excuses for innocence.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tell-All Book Reveals Mother of Five May Have Used Own Vagina

Nothing about sudden Sarah Palin-related schadenfreude erupting on Facebook or Twitter surprises me. I know where it comes from, and I know the feelings it satisfies. What surprised me this time, though, was how little I sympathized with it. It felt tiring, if not unnecessary.

You probably know the tasty details by now: Joe McGinniss, author of the seminal The Selling of the President, has been lurking under the watchful gaze of Vladimir Putin in Wasilla, Alaska, engaging in what Palin calls "peeping tom" behavior by writing a book about her. Parts of the book leaked yesterday, including this revelation from her "LOTS OF DOGS" days as a sports anchor:
Sarah hooked up with [former NBA player Glen] Rice, a 6-foot-8 junior at the University of Michigan, while he was in town for the 1987 Thanksgiving weekend "Great Alaska Shootout" basketball tournament, according to the book.

McGinniss quotes a friend as saying Sarah had "hauled his [Rice's] ass down." While the pal coyly states: "I can't say I know they had sex," the friend is also quoted as saying: "I remember Sarah feeling pretty good that she'd been with a black basketball star," according to the source.

Rice confirms the hookup... "but he's quoted as saying he didn't think Sarah harbored any bad feelings over being with him because he was black. And he remembers only nice things about Sarah, recalling her as 'gorgeous' and saying she was a big crush of his at the time."

According to the book, Rice and Sarah continued to chat on the phone right up until she married Todd just nine months later.
It's interesting. It's titillating, and I admit that I'm not immune to feeling non-angry non-grudgefuck lustful interest in Palin's whole white-trash death-librarian vibe. (If anything, she seems experienced and doesn't come off like the type who insists on using condoms.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy 9/11, Everybody!

Note: For's counterpoint on the remembrance of 9/11, please consider Flavor Flav's "9/11 Is NOT a Joke."

Weirdly serious or threatening signage is par for the course in Florida, something I've gone into before. Even official government signage gets in on the act. The oddest thing I've ever seen on a county sheriff's/county road construction sign read, "REMEMBER TO LOCK YOUR DOORS!" with the exclamation point and everything. I saw it on a midnight drive, by an upscale gated community, on a road that sees almost zero traffic after dinnertime. Still, there it was, flashing urgently. Given the area's crime rate and the sign's complete absence of utility for all but the 5pm commute, it might as well have said, "BEWARE OF SHARKBITE."

The following was sent in by reader Katye, who was driving on State Road 54 in Pasco County and saw one of those emergency notification signs making sure that, when it came to September 11th, she'd never forget. (Update: I was being facetious about the "never forget" thing, but Katye responded to say that there is indeed an ominous "NEVER FORGET" sign just down the road as well.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Beautiful Returns: NFL Kickoff, 2011

Whenever the first NFL game of the year comes on TV, I completely slacken in my chair, let my mouth fall open and emit a narcotized "aaaahhhhhhh" noise. Mostly I do this to bug The Wife, whose loathing of football I've never managed to lessen with cajoling, barbecue, beer or desperate garment-ripping (mine, not hers) pleas. I like to play to every addiction stereotype she already believes football induces.

If I'm honest with myself, I admit that this play-acting isn't entirely insincere; I really am incredibly happy to see football back on TV. Perhaps not slumped irremediably on a sofa and drooling with a soporific smile on my face, but I get excited about the start of the game and notice myself relaxing, happy, when it starts. Make of that what you will, traders in "bread and circus" metaphors. The producers of the NFL on NBC certainly mined the event for all they could.

If they were cowed by the negative response to last year's show, opening with Taylor Swift and Dave Matthews Band, they certainly didn't show it, going this year with Maroon 5 and Kid Rock. The first one seemed an obvious choice; I'm actually surprised that NBC didn't run a crawl during the Maroon 5 performance with, "Catch lead singer Adam Levine on the next season of The Voice, only on NBC!" Then again, doing this might remind viewers that Cee Lo Green is also on that show and make them wonder why no black musicians were available (again) for this event. Maroon 5 edged dangerously close to provoking this realization with the presence of a black guy playing keyboards and uncomfortably representing the antithesis of Maroon 5's kind of music.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tuesdays with Gamblor: The Problem of Telling an Oral History of 'The Simpsons'

I keep buying books about Hitler, and really this doesn't make much sense. All GOP claims aside, the world is not making more Hitler. Our Hitler levels remain constant at one or none, depending on your attitude. It's slightly illogical to pick up a book on Hitler and expect to find anything novel or radical. There is no new Hitler under the sun.

Still, I do this, not because I admire the man, but because I was once a hopeful young student who spent years reading about him and other monsters of the twentieth century before a history degree's non-practicality impressed itself on me. I invested so much time into learning the historiography of his rise and fall that I feel like I've never fully resolved the argument about him. Ninety-nine percent of the content of a new book by, say, Ian Kershaw will be old hat. Instead, the lines that jump out, the little things to search for, are the shades of argument that push interpretation gently one way or the other, changing history's verdict of the how and why, rather than the details of the what. This is a clinical and academic way of looking at it, but people do this all the time in terms of simple fan interest. (Hopefully not about Hitler.)

Consider the Beatles. New biographies come out seemingly every year, and yet the Beatles' existence as a band remains stubbornly mired in a period of a decade. As years pass, we only get more dead Beatles (seemingly along a spectrum of decreasing talent), but we don't get more of what made them. Fans refuse to let go, and so thousands buy the books to hear a familiar story again, just as more academic fans read to support or attack an argument like, "It was engineer Geoff Emerick and not Paul McCartney who changed the way McCartney's bass was recorded/mixed for the singles before Rubber Soul." (They were both trying to make him sound like James Jamerson anyway.)

It was inevitable that something like this would start to happen with The Simpsons. Like the Beatles, that show changed a generation and a form, and like the Beatles, the arguments about who created what and for what reasons will only intensify as the years between their heyday and the present increases, and as the few remaining facts in dispute continue to diminish. With the show creatively having run its last legs into the ground, it's time to assign credit and blame for the period in which it was a masterpiece. Chris Turner already tried a quasi-philosophical, uneven and solipsistic look at the show's impact on the zeitgeist with Planet Simpson, and recently John Ortved attempted a more straightforward oral history in The Simpsons: an Uncensored, Unauthorized History.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The GOP Welcomes You to the New Jim Crow

Depending on which nation or state you live in, you might have missed the Republican party's commitment over this last year to returning the U.S. to Jim Crow levels of voter disenfranchisement. Rolling Stone had an excellent article on the subject this week (and you should read it as soon as possible). In it, and in every right-wing pundit's gloss on the strategy, it's clear that the GOP believes it must rely on voter suppression and restriction to win elections.

This is one of the rare instances in which the Republican party has evinced even the slightest interest in math. They're playing percentages. Their ideal voter model is 2010 or any low-interest midterm contest; their nightmare is more of 2008. The fewer black, brown, filthy or foreign "Them" who can vote — not to mention college kids who are obliged to keep reading actual books about economics and American history — the greater force with which old, white, privileged evangelicals can shove this country back to the 19th century. They're not even particularly subtle about it. Just a few days ago, Salon's Alex Pareene ran an excellent breakdown of an odious piece of GOP opinion by Matthew Vadum. Pareene describes it as "positively Swiftian, if Jonathan Swift had been an actual cannibal." Let's look at what Vadum has to say:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Idi Amin: 'Download a Jail Bid, Punk'

Note: every week, news aggregators address hundreds of worthwhile stories or opinions that never catch on, either because they lack an obvious follow-up or because sites that live off ad revenue would rather bang high-traffic drums over and over. Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo provides a summary of good stuff you might have missed. He has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

Entertainment Industry Blazes New Avenues of Public-Private Partnerships

If you're a Tennessee resident and share your Netflix, Hulu Plus, or other premium digital service accounts with individuals who don't have paid accounts, you've committed a serious crime. In early June, the governor signed into law restrictions not shared by any other state, ones that enable you to be charged with a Class E Felony.

If you get caught sharing your Netflix password enough, you'll lose your right to vote and can face jailtime and fines. As the violation is considered "theft of property," here is the potential range of punishments you can face:
1. A Class A misdemeanor if the value of the property or services obtained is $500 or less.
2. A Class E felony if the value of the property or services obtained is more than $500 but less than $1,000.
3. A Class D felony if the value of the property or services obtained is $1,000 or more but less than $10,000.
4. A Class C felony if the value of the property or services obtained is $10,000 or more but less than $60,000.
5. A Class B felony if the value of the property or services obtained is at least $60,000.
This is another great example of the Government doing the bidding of the entertainment industry, and serves as a great sidearm to the Protect IP Act introduced in the Senate. The Protect IP Act makes it a felony to stream movies online, and was introduced by liberal hero Patrick Leahy (D-VT).