Day One action is brought to you by The World's Smallest Horse.
"This is certainly the kind of intelligent...audience participation I was...hoping to have here...on Vermont Today."
"This isn't a horse! This is a basset hound!"
Let's get right to the action.
Mark Sanford Region
1) 1-877-Kars-4-Kids Commercials vs. 16) Corporations Are People?
Seems like a worthy cause. Donate your car to help kids fight cancer. Seems like a good way to get money for an organization as well. Tax-deductiblity seems like a good way to get people to do something that wouldn't normally do.
Hmm. How are they going to get people to remember that their organization exists amidst the thousands of other organizations also doing admirable work?
I know! Come up with a jingle so throw-your-shoe-at-the-radio annoying that people won't be able to not remember them!
It's not the child singing that's annoying. It's the incessant monotone, the sheer length and the looping repetitiveness of it. Listen to the same radio station for more than a couple hours on a certain day and you hear it eight times. They buy it in ad blocks to compound on the annoying effect.
Hatred for the 1-877-Kars-4-Kids Ads isn't new. But when I found myself singing it in the shower in a fourth kind of nails-on-the-chalkboard voice last month, it came to a second-order crescendo for me.
And then I found out that the donation itself and where the money goes is a little more complicated than that. Don't have a problem with it but not saying that upfront is a wee bit dirty.
But you know what? We're going to have our first upset of a #1 seed right off the bat. First day! First game! Wow!
I'm not going to pretend to know the ins and outs along with the ultimate ramifications of the recent Supreme Court case that struck down McCain-Feingold. Basically, they took a case that questioned whether a corporation can be barred from endorsing a candidate and crossed the Rubicon into giving corporations the same rights as sentient beings w/r/t elections.
It was going to happen eventually. The Supreme Court is in the business of interpreting the Constitution regardless of the nature, quality, goodness or badness of outcomes. And all that was the conservative wing's out-pitch. Perfect case, perfect time for the conservatives.
But just because it's a plausible interpretation of the law doesn't mean it doesn't reek of political maneuvering. In the end, while this day was going to come, the Supreme Court seemed to relish in the opportunity to make real campaign finance reform even harder to reach by attaching precedent to the argument for strong, First Amendment corporate rights.
They didn't have to do that, probably shouldn't have done given the Court's history with avoiding such sweeping decisions, but they did.
Winner: Corporations Are People? with its paradigm-changing ball play, 80-62.
6) Masturbation Over Starlin Castro vs. 11) Gap Christmas Ads
Let's go down memory lane with a list of Cub players thought to be the next big thing.
Hee Seop Choi
...and Mickey Morandini...oh...wait...
Misty, color-colored memories...of the way...they were.
I blame Jim Callis of Baseball America. It's not really his fault and he shouldn't have to take Chicago meatball fans into account when making an evaluation. But when he said last week on The Score that Castro's ceiling might be a Derek Jeter type, thousands of shabby, dumpster-couch-strewn apartments all over Wrigleyville were left with fresh ejaculate all over their beer-stained floors.
It was innocent enough. He was only saying that he could grow into the body type with a little pop, above-average speed, hit for a .300 average and field his position at a level beyond his years. It was only a ceiling and body type comparison. I guar-an-tee that didn't matter.
31 games above A ball and he's the next Cubs' savior.
My guess on the headline the day he gets called up: The Stars Align For Starlin Castro
You know, because 'star' is in his name.
This just isn't a very smart baseball town, is it?
I think the weirdest thing about the Gap Christmas ad campaign a few months ago was that it never reached the point of laughably annoying, instead, always staying in a holding pattern right above infuriatingly annoying. And if it was just one of the ads, like just the kids and not the hipster 20-somethings, I don't think it would have had the same effect.
The cutesy kids ad dripped with so much couch-writhing, excessively cloying cuteness that you know it worked on so many parents looking to dress their kids up like seasonal Barbie dolls. The Gap was offering a line of wear that allowed mothers to dress their children up in matchy-matchy outfits while still offering some level of "independence" and "personality" (same clothes...but different colors! Eureka! And I can buy all of them at the mall while still getting my daily Starbuck's! That saves time!). It's a unique psychological disorder, that - wanting to dress up your children in the same clothes. And The Gap made it cheap and easy.
I simply wanted to knee one of the 20-something hipsters in the groin. But the Unbearable Cuteness Of Being in the kids' commercial was over the top. I have a feeling that thousands of women got vicariously pregnant every time they saw it.
And whatever you do, don't read the comments on its YouTube page.
Really, I thought I was done with getting my undergarments in a clump over a commercial. Guess not.
Barring injury, Castro most likely won't see the field this year so...
Winner: Gap Christmas Ads with their spunky toughness, 68-58.
David Paterson Region
1) Everything That Is And Was Avatar vs. 16) Church Cookbooks
I haven't seen Avatar so I can't speak on it with any authority.
I have listened to some people I know talk about it like it was a religious awakening.
And, of course, there was this over at the SNC. Check out the replies in the comments section! Whew! That's pure, unadulterated, batshit looniness!
I don't think I'll be seeing it anytime soon, mainly because I know the movie revolves around obtaining a rare metal called 'unobtainium' and it takes place on a moon called Pandora. Spoon feed much? What am I, eight?
In small towns, you hold your good recipes close to the vest. The good ones are part of you, part of your personality, part of who you are in relation to the town. Mrs. Chadwick down the street may be a hard-working housewife with two bland kids and a husband who ignores her in the exact same way Mrs. Jones is two streets over but have you had her beef stroganoff? It's heaven!
Church cookbook entries, then, become a strategic game. Give a little but never much. Sometimes, it's a big fuck you to the church cookbook organizer over some long-forgotten slight, something like forgetting to say goodbye after the 4th grade Christmas pageant in 1984 ("the least she coulda done is say goodbye. I even brought her a pie last month when Jim was sick and she barely said thank you for that!").
We here at the BRE attempted to capture Church Cookbook Magic back in October by whipping up a few recipes from Christo's childhood church cookbook. It died a quick death due to the tongue-scrapping awfulness of the concoctions.
Bad, bad, bad food. I can still taste the popcorn salad.
But this isn't that close.
Winner: Avatar with its ubiquitous ubiquity all over the court, 100-70.
6) Restaurant Wine Prices vs. 11) This Season Of The Office & 30 Rock
We're currently planning a trip to New York in April revolving around restaurants. It's the same kind of thing we did with San Francisco and Toronto recently. Food and wine first with sightseeing second.
With that planning comes pouring over menus of places where we want to make a reservation and all I can say in the early stages is....WOW!
I work in the restaurant world and have dealt with setting wine lists and prices so I understand the markups and overall restaurant economics involved. Wine is where restaurants make their money. It usually starts at two-and-a-half times the average retail value of each wine. If the restaurant is in a prime location, three times isn't out of the ordinary since they have to factor in higher operating costs. Three-and-a-half times retail and the restaurant is usually overcompensating for some deficiency in the business model or cut a bad real estate deal.
This is a much more complicated argument with oodles of nuance but if a restaurant is charging more than about three times a readily available wine that you can find at multiple wine shops, well, you know that restaurant probably isn't that spectacular. If they're charging that for wines that are kinda rare, older vintages, have a list focusing on smaller producers, etc., then a good argument could be made for such things. Storage and care, effort to find them, trips taken to taste various wines in order to create a wine list personality and so on costs money.
But there are a decent amount of restaurants right here in Chicago that I would be very tempted to go to based solely on their food but when I see what they're charging for a wine I can get in town or order off the internet, something's got to be wrong with something.
It's gotten a lot better in the recession as customers fled high-end restaurants by the boatload. I've seen so many corrections on so many lists all over town in the last year with many lists dropping the price they used to charge by $30-50 or more just in the last year.
But essentially, many restaurants prey on the fact that the vast majority of the public, including many diners at high-end places on expense accounts, don't know the first thing about wine and their actual prices.
I have more on this and have a lot of feelings, apparently. We'll get into some examples in the next round as This Season of The Office & 30 Rock doesn't have a chance.
But This Season of The Office & 30 Rock has been bad. Bad and boring. The last episode of 30 Rock felt like they were trying to mock their own style, even down to the acting. And I don't think The Office writers know what to do with the show anymore. Both feel like the TV fairy took off the charm spell this season as I've had too many moments where I said, "What the hell was that?"
My worst fear with 30 Rock was always in the back of my mind when I watched it: What if Alec Baldwin wasn't on this show? Would I watch it? Probably, I guess. Even he hasn't been great this season.
My worst fear with The Office was watching them wander into Simpson's territory where Apu, Mo and Nelson get into wacky adventures. Some of the plot lines this season have felt somewhat close to that.
I'm giggling a bit at both shows this season but both just aren't doing anything for me overall.
Modern Family and Parks & Recreation have vastly outperformed both and it's not even close in my world.
Winner: Restaurant Wine Prices with its high-paid frontline, 82-59.