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Posts tagged ‘Entertainment’

Why you should love college football

Above is the ending of the Auburn-Georgia game in 2013 that helped keep Auburn undefeated. At the time, it seemed like it might be the craziest thing that happened in the SEC last year.

Nope.

If you’re a dude, you invariably get into a lot of bar conversations across your 20s and 30s (and logically beyond) about whether you’re an NCAA guy, an NFL guy, or something else. When the fall comes around, this is a much bigger topic; I’ve been in two of these discussions just today. There are arguments on all sides and ultimately it’s a personal decision, but I’m an NCAA guy. Read more

Elizabeth Cauvel vs. Courtney Lapresi is going to be the MasterChef 2014 finale, right?

MasterChef seems to be a big fan of the narrative thread this season perhaps more than any other — for example, Leslie and Ahran feuded repeatedly in early challenges and then, on Ahran’s eventual elimination night, it was her vs. Leslie (and it got to the point where she said Leslie was going to win the whole thing). I’ve written about Leslie a little bit before, and while I do think he’ll be in the final three/four, I see him eventually getting eliminated. He’s a very good cook and he’s done a masterful job surviving all these Stress Tests, but I think there’s an element where they’re keeping him around this long for the ratings side. He seems like he’s a potentially insufferable dude on the regular (although we see such a narrow sphere of these people’s interactions that I can’t be sure).

If you think about the narrative side of this season, though, it seems like the entire thing is building towards Elizabeth vs. Courtney. Even last night, when — SPOILER ALERT — one-time fan favorite Big Willie went home, the whole thing was essentially about Courtney (up in the balcony after winning Mystery Box) trying to screw Elizabeth by putting her with Cutter. It almost worked. I’d say at least once per episode this year, either Courtney or Elizabeth has done something and they’ve immediately cut to a shot of the other one throwing shade / side-eye at what just happened. They’re angling to meet in the finals; it definitely seems like the earlier episodes were edited to get us hyped for that.

The final six is now Cutter, Christian, Leslie, Elizabeth, Courtney, and Jaime.

I feel like the strongest four cooks, based on the body of evidence thus far, are: Leslie, Courtney, Christian, and Elizabeth.

Personally, I feel like that’ll be the final four. I could easily be wrong.

I like Cauvel (Elizabeth) a lot because she seems like a cool person off show, and she’s doing the social media side of it right. For example:

Fans are into it too, and she responds:

Plus, she’s got a cool website — tag line is “Staying in is the new going out” — and the website has a blog, with entries like this:

A lot of my friends do “Meatless Mondays.” As a conscientious omnivore, I try to eat meat at only one meal a day (although sometimes, I don’t adhere to this rule–which is why I try not to preach about it). As I’ve discussed before, I am a strong believer in the meat-in-moderation approach to eating, and I hope that this recipe shows you that you can conceptualize dishes in fun and unexpected ways when you take meat out of the equation.

The inspiration for this dish was definitely the iconic visual of spaghetti and meatballs–one of my all time favorite meals, and in my opinion, in the top ten best dishes in the world. But could I take that beloved classic and make vegetarian? I knew I could do it. And for me, the fun is always in the challenge. I was actually surprised just how tasty this ended up being! The zucchini noodles are actually awesome–I will definitely be adding them to my repertoire! And they couldn’t be simpler. This was the first time I’d made falafel from scratch, and while I can’t say it was perfect, my husband said it was the most delicious falafel he’d ever had. High praise from someone who LIVED on the stuff in college.

To potentially contradict my theory on Elizabeth making the finals, there’s this tweet from her husband on July 26th. I have no idea of the shooting schedule of MasterChef and this could just be for the comedy sake of the posed shot, but … she might have been said because they taped her elimination episode before she flew back to NYC. Again, who knows? I love floating theories.

On August 17th, though, she was away again. (Still don’t know the production schedule, but clearly it’s wrapped by now.)

Point is on all this stuff: there’s six left. I’m not sure how they’ll eliminate them, but if I had to guess, this would be my order:

  • Jaime goes out next week (it looks like a stressful test, and she hasn’t been great at those)
  • Cutter goes out the week after (he’s been skating, legitimately)
  • Christian goes out the following week (Leslie does something devious to get him gone)
  • Leslie vs. Courtney vs. Elizabeth gets rid of Leslie
  • The final is Courtney vs. Elizabeth

Obviously they may edit it differently and eliminate two at a time, etc. — but that’s my best guess for the final six.

Your thoughts?

So, the Seattle Seahawks could become a dynasty, right?

The Super Bowl was terrible last year — phrased another way, the Seahawks are really good. The last time any NFL team won back-to-back Super Bowls was 2003-2004 (the Patriots). Begs the question, obviously: can the Seahawks do that, and can they become a legitimate dynasty in the mold of the 1990s Cowboys and all that? Here’s a few arguments on either side.

Yes, They Can Become A Dynasty

1. They were the second-youngest Super Bowl winning team ever, with an average age of just over 24 years.

2. They basically don’t lose at home — aside from one regular-season loss to the Cardinals last year, the last time they had dropped one in Seattle was Christmas Eve 2011. The last time the team lost a playoff game at home was 2004 — and Russell Wilson was probably about 13 then.

3. If Jim Harbaugh punts on the 49ers after this year, that takes away the biggest challenge to Seattle. (Yes, Arizona was good last year and might be for the next few years, but the biggest challenge to Seattle in the division and probably the conference right now is SF.)

4. They seem to have the right attitude:

“When we came back in, there was no talk about repeating,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “It was (about) going back to the basics.”

No, They Won’t Become A Dynasty

1. Injuries can always be a thing.

2. Once you get a Super Bowl, there’s this notion of “target on your back” and “distractions.” Many teams fall prey to it. The Seahawks have a stable leadership pipeline, but they too could fall into it.

3. Long-term contracts and prioritization of the stars — if Wilson gets paid, and Harvin gets paid, can the O/D-Line get paid? And if they start to walk, what happens then?

4. Flip-side of the Harbaugh argument: let’s say he stays in the Bay Area for a long time. He’s just been to three consecutive NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. He’s clearly knocking on the door. At some point, one of his teams will knock it in. They’re always right there with Seattle in big games, for the most part. Who’s to say they won’t be again?

5. The rise of the Cardinals (although their QB is older), the Rams (very young team), or a team like the Eagles or Saints (or Panthers?) could be a threat to them in the broader NFC.

6. Remember how, a few years ago, we all thought the Packers were going to become a dynasty? That hasn’t happened yet. So we should all pump the brakes here a bit.

What’s your take?

 

If River Phoenix had never died, would Leonardo DiCaprio’s career be the same?

Last night, on a Saturday evening at about 12:21am, I was reading the Wikipedia for River Phoenix (what else would one possibly be doing at that time?). I came across two things I didn’t know (well, way more than that — like how close River Phoenix and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers are — but two for the purposes of this post):

  • River had been interested in making The Basketball Diaries into a film. That did happen, in 1996 — with Leo DiCaprio in the lead.
  • He had expressed interest as the lead in Total Eclipse. That went to — you guessed it — Leo.

River Phoenix did in October of 1993, tragically. At the time, Leo had predominantly been in TV shows (RoseanneGrowing PainsParenthood) and then received acclaim in This Boy’s Life. (Another big movie for him, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, didn’t actually come out in the United States until December 1993 — two months after the tragic passing of River Phoenix.)

Leo was about four years younger than River Phoenix (former born in 1974, latter born in 1970).

If you think Titanic was “the” break for Leo (probably true), you have to wonder — would he have gotten there (the attention of James Cameron, etc.) without things like The Basketball Diaries and Total Eclipse? For Titanic, they needed a potential heartthrob; they didn’t necessarily need a great actor (which Leo was already proving with This Boy’s Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape).

Major sliding doors moment here, then, but if River Phoenix lives through Halloween 1993 — many argue he should have — is Leo’s career in the same place now?

He probably still has the women and potentially the yachts –

– but you could make a case that certain roles, perhaps even Titanic, would have found their way to River Phoenix or other young stars of the time because Leo didn’t have that steadily-increasing branding.

Hell, I mean — Titanic itself could have gone to Jeremy Sisto, apparently:

Lest you think I’m a total moron (I probably am), here’s HitFix on the same topic of Leo and River:

River Phoenix was well on his way to being a bankable star when he passed away. Acclaim was something that had become a given, and he was certainly not above making a decision that was about getting better opportunities and being able to help get something good made. He would have, at the very least, been in the running for “Titanic,” and I can imagine Cameron wanting that perfect blend of credibility and commercial appeal, and someone a little older. After all, Phoenix was set to star in “The Basketball Diaries” at one point, and “Total Eclipse” is another role that was his at first. It is not a stretch to say that DiCaprio’s early days could have easily been delayed or deferred if Phoenix was around to take roles away from him.

There’s also this:

If River lived I do think Leonardo would have had a career still… but if River took Titanic… it would have meant Leonardo would probably need a few more major movie roles to live upto the fame and celebrity him taking Titanic gave him… Titanic pretty much made Leo a household name, so he might not be as popular but I do think he would still be a respected actor, because he has the talent.

In the broader scope of things, young Leo in the early 1990s considered River Phoenix an icon/hero — and purportedly saw him early in the evening he ultimately died.

 

The social psychology of Las Vegas is incredible, if you think about it.

I was just in Las Vegas for about eight days. I’d classify Vegas as — at best – a 72-hour city, so eight days was a lot. I was a mix of sober, drunk, exhausted, over-worked, experiencing leg pain, getting lost on the Strip, and attempting to analyze a whole different series of contexts and emotions. Here are a couple of thoughts.

1. I checked in on a Friday at about 10:10am local time. I hadn’t been to Vegas in about four years at the time I was checking in, so when I saw two guys approach the check-in desk at 10am and each were double-fisting Coronas, I kind of did a double-take. Then I realized, “OK, yea, this is Las Vegas.” Those guys were maybe 22-24, so it made sense — they either landed that morning or got in last night, and regardless, they didn’t appear to be on any “clock” (wearing team jerseys and shorts), so whatever, it’s a Friday off. Who among us hasn’t pounded drinks early on a Friday off? It happens.

Then in the line behind me were two married couples from Iowa, vacationing together — about late 50s, all of them — and one of the two husbands brings about four G&Ts into the line and passes them out. These people were just checking in. It was maybe 10:15am. Now they were all pounding G&Ts. A whole host of memories of Vegas flooded back to me at that moment.

2. Other oddly-timed drunk story: at 2pm that same day, I saw a dude being carried to the elevator bank by four other dudes. When the security guard asked what was wrong, one of the friends said “Bachelor party.” Again, this was 2pm on a weekday.

3. Think about this one for a second: how many cities in the world are truly unique? You could probably rattle off about 10-20, right? Paris is probably right up there. New York City. London. Buenos Aires. Beijing. Moscow. Rome. Etc, etc. I’m missing a ton. Each place in the world is totally unique in its own regard — I do fervently believe that — but start thinking about it a little differently: London and New York are different in terms of layout and water and culture, but they have a vaguely similar ethos. Same with a couple of European cities you could cross-pollinate, and same with some Asian cities. Buenos Aires is an original, but it bears some similarity (some being the key word) to Santiago and Lima.

Now: is there any place in the world truly like Las Vegas? You hear dozens of languages on the Strip. People are walking around drinking at all points of the day. At 3am last Saturday night, it was challenging to get from one hotel to another on the Strip because the streets were jammed. At 3am. On a Saturday. I lived in New York for over 20 years all in and I’ve never seen that, not even in the East/West Village.

I wouldn’t necessarily make this argument, but you could make the argument that, on some measure, Las Vegas is the most unique city in the entire world. It definitely has the infrastructure to bring in the world. We know that.

4. Had a friend tell me while there, “Las Vegas to me is like Vietnam. You can’t possibly go in as yourself, and you’re not coming out the same person you were before.” Had another friend tell me, “I honestly believe the first thing you pack when you leave for Vegas is a different personality.” You can describe Vegas in a ton of different ways — “hedonistic playground,” “Sin City,” whatever you want to call it — but this is an interesting aspect. It’s a city in the middle of a desert that attracts world conferences. There’s no legitimate context for why there should even be a city there, and it’s a city hosting 100K people at a time. That’s weird to think about, because in a way, nothing about Vegas is real. How many people out there for 3-4 days are truly acting like themselves, as they would be back in Des Moines or Boston or Charlotte? Probably very few. It’s kind of a perpetual state of suspended animation from a psychological standpoint.

5. I actually stayed at the Bellagio most of the time I was out there. The Bellagio is an amazing property in a number of ways — think about it like MLB ballparks. In MLB, a new ballpark is always being built, and that becomes “the thing.” Same with Vegas. Since Bellagio first went up, dozens of new spots have gone up. And yet, Bellagio is still a major mainstay / stand-by for people on The Strip. (Kind of like Camden Yards in MLB, I guess.) Why? Well one reason is how they design the gaming areas:

Finlay refers to Thomas’s environments as “adult playgrounds,” since they provide an atmosphere in which people are primed to seek pleasure. “These casinos have lots of light and excellent way-finding,” she told me. “They make you feel comfortable, of course, but they also constantly remind you to have fun.”

She went on, “The data is clear. Gamblers in a playground casino will stay longer, feel better, and bet more. Although they come away with bigger losses, they’re eager to return.”
Finlay notes that the effectiveness of such designs comes at the expense of the guests, who have been persuaded by flowers and nice furniture to squander money on games that are rigged in favor of the house. According to her findings, Thomas’s designs have a particularly marked efect on those guests who normally don’t gamble. The seduction of his décor, perhaps, is that it doesn’t feel like a gambling environment. The beauty is a kind of anesthesia, distracting people from the pain of their inevitable losses.

Seduction of decor? Everything about Las Vegas goes back to basic human psychology, and how to play within it.

6. The El Rancho Vegas was actually the first hotel to appear on “The Strip,” for any and all history buffs. That’s where it all began.

7. Bottom line on all this: just a very interesting, unique place with an amazing connection back to the human experience, human behavior, and psychology in general. The world does pass through there — I’d honestly guess the only other places with nearly the amount of not-necessarily-just-business-travelers are NYC, Paris, London and maybe Toronto (very diverse populace up there) — so almost any decision you make needs to take into account how people might perceive it in the context of being in Vegas and disconnecting from their “real” selves (hence the adult playground stuff above).

Can you all think of a more interesting social psychology city than Vegas?

No one seems to want to attend Tampa Bay Buccaneers games

The last time the Bucs won a playoff game, it was their Super Bowl win — back in 2002. That might be correlated with this: in 2013, they were 29th in the NFL in home attendance; in 2012, they were 31st; in 2011, they were 30th; in 2010, they were 31st; and in 2009, they were 27th. Phrased another way, they’ve been in the bottom seven of NFL attendance for the past half-decade. Part of this is on-field performance, of course — and part of it could be the location of the stadium, which is essentially near Tampa Airport:

This post goes into a little more detail on the supposed erosion of the Buccaneer fan base, blaming it on these reasons:

  • The economy
  • Bridges burned by the Glazer family (owners) after the Super Bowl was in Tampa
  • Fair-weather fans
  • The big-screen TV generation

You could broadly probably add “Florida” to that list; the area typically has good fall seasons, and Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa Bay — admittedly, none of those three teams has been very competitive in the last couple of years — tend to all be in the bottom third for attendance. The “economy” argument makes sense in this context too; Florida was one of the worst areas in terms of the 2008 economic downturn, specifically as relates to property. I buy the “big-screen TV generation” thing to an extent, and that is something the NFL will continue to struggle with down the road. The fair-weather fandom is interesting — get this:

Yet, ironically, the Fairweathers aren’t coming either. In 2010, when Bucs posted a 10-6 record, Tampa Bay had its worst drop in attendance – only filling up Raymond James Stadium 75% of capacity per game on the year. Tampa Bay’s attendance actually improved to 86% of capacity in 2011 when the team followed up its winning season by getting off to a 4-2 start, but this season – after the collapse at the end of 2011, many of these fairweathers are taking a wait-and-see approach. Tampa Bay fans have filled the stadium 82% of capacity this season.

You could also argue that part of the problem was the team starting 0-7 in 2013.

Here’s another broader argument the NFL will struggle with going forward:

“The NFL ticket has priced itself out of the middle class,” said Lighthall, “the average ticket is 75 bucks, and you take a family of four for a three- hour event. If I’m going to pay that much I’m going to take them to Disney World, and we’re going to walk till we can’t walk anymore.”

This happens to a lot of sports, but the NFL is a bigger deal than most — and there’s a lot of stuff to do within about a three-hour drive of Tampa in any direction, so it’s a little bit different than maybe Green Bay (also, the culture of the Midwest and Florida are obviously very different as regards generations, passions, etc.)

All this said, the Bucs are about middle-of-the-pack when it comes to NFL team valuations; they’re roughly No. 17 according to Forbes.

Kaley Cuoco is now officially a superstar

I know, I know: it’s really Kaley Cuoco-Sweetling. At this point, it doesn’t matter. She just signed a new three-year deal with Big Bang Theory – so did Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons — which will pay her about $1 million per episode (22-24 episodes per year) across the three seasons. Translation: big money. If you factor in her deals with Toyota, Priceline, and the movie with Kevin Hart and Josh Gad coming out, she’s basically about to enter the upper echelon of female TV stars. Right now that’s essentially three people — Sofia Vergara, Mariska Hargitay, and Ellen Pompeo. The latter two are on shows that have run forever and a day and do well in syndication, and Sofia Vergara is an entity onto herself. (Plus, Modern Family has had a good initial run in syndication itself.)

A couple of interesting things here:

1. It is a semi-regular topic of my friends — as well as my wife and I — to try and figure out how Big Bang is such a success. Honestly, I watch it and I mostly find it funny. Jim Parsons is excellent on that show, and everyone fits into their sitcom niche role pretty well. Chuck Lorre has a golden touch in that format. It does surprise me that it plays so well in the “middle states” because it’s ostensibly about a group of friends in California, but I guess the humor is fairly general. Even though not everyone has physicists as friends, you could argue (could argue) that the circle-of-friends depictions on the show are more normal than, say, How I Met Your Mother — if you’ve never lived in NYC, that show might be harder to conceptualize (whereas Friends, while based in NYC, was a bit more universal). I feel like every sitcom since 1996 has been trying to re-create Friends, and even though they’re very different on surface, Big Bang might do the best job.

2. Amy Davidson, who was the other sister on Eight Simple Rules, appears to now be in Chevrolet Equinox ads:

3. If you were to consider Vergara, Hargitay, Pompeo, Cuoco and maybe Alyson Hannigan as “the big five” of female TV-based actresses over the last five years or so (I added Hannigan because she’s been on a bunch of hits, etc.) If you think of the actresses in the “conventional sex kitten” vein — which is one way that females become successful on TV, throughout time — it’s cool because only Vergara is really that. Yes, Hargitay’s mother was Jayne Mansfield, and yes, all of the actresses are conventionally attractive (Hannigan maybe less so, or at least that’s how she was supposed to be in American Pie), but none are from the “sex kitten/bombshell” territory (except Vergara). Is that a sign of advancement for females on television? Maybe. It’s interesting, though.

Here’s kinda what I mean by the old “bombshell” model:

4. This is going to be the conventional approach of most people on this raise…

… but in all fairness, the show got 5x better when Cuoco got female friends and there were a whole different batch of storylines to play with. It’s now less about “the guys” or Sheldon and Leonard, and more about a big mess of a group of friends. And who can’t relate to that?

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