No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Does Reading Make You Dumber?

Depends which books you choose, apparently. A clearly not rigorous but kinda funny study highlighted by both Richard Florida and Freakonomics links the most popular books across college campuses with the SAT scores at those schools.

The results? Lolita, 100 Years of Solitude, Crime and Punishment, Freakonomics, and Atlas Shrugged are popular with the smart kids. The lower SAT scorers go for stuff like The Color Purple, Fahrenheit 451 and The Outsiders.

Catch 22 is smartier than Wuthering Heights. The Da Vinci Code beats Hamlet. He's Just Not that into You looks like it just edges out Fight Club.

What does it all mean? I'd say it means college students do read some crap (hello, Tuesdays with Morrie) but are more likely to highlight the classy stuff on their profiles.

And in terms of that top 5, I'll admit I've only read 3 and thought they were each brilliant and challenging in different ways. Lolita is one of the finest books ever written, full stop. Solitude was dense, beautiful and affecting - but somehow doesn't make my list of all-time favourites. Maybe I'm just not a magic realist kind of gal. Or the fact that everyone had the same name strained by brain. And Freakonomics was really just good fun. For Crime and Punishment, I'll get there someday when I'm feeling brave. And Ayn Rand just ain't ever going to happen, bigger brain or not.

Election Update

Turns out these is an election of some kind in the country to our south. Gee, there's so little coverage of it, I wouldn't have noticed.

For those who have kept their distance from the longest election in the world thus far, let me update you now, as we're about a week away from actually finding out who will be the nominees. After Super Tuesday, February 5, we should have a pretty good idea of the slate on both sides.

On the Democratic side, it is a two-horse race. This situation comes well after the media told us first that it was certainly Hilary's race and then that it was Obama's to win and now, well, that they have no clue. One thing is for sure - the outcome of this race will be historic. Either a woman or a black man will be the nominee. It isn't inconceivable that both could end up on the ticket (though Clinton-Edwards and Obama-Edwards seem more likely, given the closeness of the race and the likelihood of some serious mud to be flung in the coming weeks, than either Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton - especially since it looks like Edwards will drop out of the race today).

The most interesting aspect of this race, of course, is the Bill factor. As in ex-President, I-did-not-have-sex-with-that-woman Bill Clinton. He's been Hilary's biggest booster, her advisor, her campaigner, her attack dog. And while he can not officially take on a role in her cabinet, it's clear that the Clinton value proposition is a two-for-one deal. Just like before, only this time it'll be her name on the door and, presumably, no interns crouched under the desk.

The question for me: given the slim chance that America would ever actually vote in a woman President anyway, does it help or hurt the cause that the first woman to have a real chance at the ticket is so divisive and, well, pretty damn unlikable? Hurt, I think. Like up here in Canada-land, our first woman Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, was so uniformly ineffectual that her party was all but destroyed in the aftermath. It'll be one hell of a long time before we see another PM wearing a skirt (assuming Stephen Harper doesn't have any leanings in this direction that we've been heretofore unaware of).

On the Republican side, it's all less clear. Well, except for one-time-front-runner "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani. That's pretty clear. It looks like the cynics were right after all and Rudy really was crazy to pin all of his presidential hopes on Florida, essentially skipping the early primaries in favour of decisive win here. No momentum, no win, no chance.

That leaves Arizona Senator John McCain, millionaire Mormon Mitt Romney and born-again right-winger Mike Huckabee. This is the race with real buzz - and in my opinion is the real race for foe White House. My money's on McCain, but it can all change in a minute. Just ask Rudy Giuliani.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blogs from the Past

My best friend just sent me links to two blogs - both from old high school friends I haven't seen in 15 years. One, her old boyfriend (whom I always thought wasn't nearly good enough for her), another from a guy I had something of a lust-hate relationship with. OK, it totally wasn't a relationship. And he basically had lust-hate, not-really-a-relationships with almost every girl I knew.

So I clearly had to check these blogs out.

My first thought was - yes, he really wasn't good enough for her.

My second was - does running spellcheck really take that long? Is it really so hard? Or, as my friend Jonathan would say, good grammar costs nothing, people!

And then - did I really once know these people? If you'd told me the last time I saw them that it would be the last, would I have been sad?

I was at a wedding recently and saw a handful of friends from high school. Again, friends I hadn't seen in 15 years. It was weird and wonderful to see them again, but things stayed at the "so, where do you work, how's your family, what's new with you, do you remember that time when we..." level. With these blogs, I was getting a stream-of-consciousness entry into how these guys see themselves, how they think, what they are really like today.

Holy crap.

I get it. I do. Blogs are inherently self indulgent. As I type this - I'm being entirely self-indulgent. Look at me! Aren't I smart? Don't I have important thoughts that bear writing down and being read by total strangers and old high school friends? Check me out in all my witty brilliance. But despite its misspelled and painfully articulated drawbacks, blogging is a phenomenon - a user-generated, unedited-prose-spilling-unfiltered-from-one's-brain phenomenon - that I find entirely fascinating. How much do you share? How much do you show? Do you blog about dinner last night? Rant about rantworthy topics in politics and life? Or barely blog at all, you lazy bastard!

Leafs Fire Ferguson

No way....! Who could possibly have seen this coming? Shocked, I am.


Is there a professional sports organization anywhere in the world that is so financially successful in spite of itself? Seriously. The Leafs kept Ferguson at the end of last season, when it was abundantly clear that the man should be fired. They turned down help from quite possibly the greatest hockey mind in the game, one Scotty Bowman. Then, they leave Ferguson twisting in the wind for weeks while they line up his replacement. And that replacement is a guy who was past his hockey prime 10 years ago. No-one loves has-beens like the Leafs love has-beens.

Who runs a business like this?

I used to be a huge Leafs fan. In the brutal 80's, then the all-too-brief Gilmore era, I was bleeding blue and white. But the strike got me out of the hockey habit and I haven't been back. But I do feel for the die-hards who have to put up with Peddie and his complete managerial ineptitude.

Better luck next year...

Oscar Season

It remains to be seen whether the Oscars will actually happen this year - in their typical format or in some bizarre starless press conference like the Globes - but the nominees are out. Let the handicapping begin!

The big winners:

Cate Blanchett -
She's won before - as Best Supporting Actress for her spot-on Katherine Hepburn impression in The Aviator. This year, she's up for both Best Actress, in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and for channelling Bob Dylan in his Rock God era in I'm Not There. The Dylan nod was a slam-dunk, but the nomination for the underwhelming Elizabeth sequel shows just how much the Academy loves Cate. It's good to be Queen.

Juno -
It really is this year's Little Miss Sunshine - the quirky indie that gets some serious love from the Academy. With nominations for actress Ellen Page, director Jason Reitman, screenplay for Diablo Cody and, oh, by the way, best picture, Juno seems to have charmed its way into some serious categories. Go Canada!

Then there were the shoo-ins - Day-Lewis, Clooney, Javier Bardem, Philip Seymour Hoffman - in the men's categories, Hollywood's heavy hitters were all present and accounted for.

The snubs:

This what we really care about, right? Who was left out?

Atonement -
Sure, it got a bunch of nominations, including best picture, but nothing for stars Kiera Knightley or James McAvoy. Could Hollywood be getting weary of that perpetually sour look on Kiera's face, too?

Angelina Jolie -
No nomination for her Oscar-bait role as Marianne Pearl in A Mighty Heart. At least she has Brad and those dozen or so kids of theirs to comfort her.

Into the Wild -
Hmmm, maybe whining about how much you hate Awards season won't actually help your film very much, eh Sean Penn? Hmmm.


Brady is wearing a cast on his foot? While this news might make the media go into a tizzy, especially given the NFL's traditional post-season game of Name that Undisclosed Injury, it hasn't gotten me too worked up. Trust me - there is absolutely nothing stopping Tom Brady from playing in this year's Superbowl. And winning another damn MVP either.

Much as I'd love to believe it, these isn't much hope that the Giants can pull off the upset. The Pats have looked beatable the past 6 weeks or so, but not likely by a double-digit underdog with a hit-and-miss middle-tier QB. Well, unless Burress can keep playing like her did on Sunday - and given that he has pretty much never in his life played as well as he did on Sunday, that could be tough.

I'll admit, my Superbowl prediction - Indy over the Pack - didn't pan out. This time, though, it's a no-brainer. Take the Giants with the spread, but the Pats are winning the whole darn thing. Damn it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Championship Sunday

It is, as some of you know, my very favourite day of the year. It's a simple equation:

Championship Sunday > Superbowl Sunday


Too many Superbowls are one-sided blow-outs, or low-scoring snores. Truly competitive games on the big Sunday are few and far between. But Championship Sunday? These are games between teams that know each other well - usually between well-matched teams (with none of the AFC-NFC power imbalance at play). Often, they are games between teams who hate one another.

The big-ticket match-up would, of course, have been Indianapolis versus New England. How much do Colts fans hate the Pats? So much so that they booed a 14-year-old girl who was announced as one of the winner of the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick Competition just for wearing a Pats jersey.

But given that Indy pretty much gave the game away with some seriously lackluster offence on Sunday, it'll be New England versus San Diego. Oh, and by the way, the Chargers really hate the Patriots too. LT, really, really hates them. Now, if only he plays it might be interesting. I wouldn't bet on it though - it'll be New England in the end.

The other game is the one with some real intrigue. The Giants barely made it into the play-offs and looked likely to exit early as they began their traditional late-season swoon. But something funny happened on the way to the play-offs. The defence, written off in weeks one and two as brutally bad, started playing like pro-bowlers. And in the last week of the season, rather than sit their stars to rest for the play-offs, the Giants met history head on by playing hard against the Pats in their quest for regular season perfection. And the Giants made a game of it. They came as close as anyone has to defeating the Pats this year. A Pats-Giants Superbowl sounds almost tantalizing. There's just one thing in the way:

Lambeau Field.

It's beaten down better teams than the Giants (see: Seattle Seahawks). Brett Favre is playing with a bunch of kids - the Pack are the youngest team in the league, even when you include their geriatric QB - and he's playing his best ball in years. That ridiculous completion as he was stumbling through the snow last week? It belonged on the highlight reels not just for the sheer pluck of it, but for the remarkable sense of the field Favre retains.

Whether this week will be a similar snowy winter wonderland or not remains to be seen. But the game looks like a good one.

My superbowl pick - the Colts - is done for. So, I'll have to pull for the Pack to redeem me - at least a little.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Rundown

So I take a little break from blogging and looks what happens... all heck breaks loose.

The Chargers won a play-off game (and looked really, really crappy doing it, one might add). Eli Manning won a play-off game (and actually looked pretty good doing it). So will it be Manning v Manning in the Superbowl? Let's not count on that one just yet.

The Steelers are out - in a year that Big Ben didn't crash his motorcycle. The Seahawks are in - in a year where Matt Hasselbeck played like he'd just crashed his motorcycle. Jacksonville is being touted as the real wildcard in the race - the kind that makes the top seeds nervous. But after nearly letting Pittsburgh come back in what should have been a rout, they look pretty mortal to me.

Other news:

He's Just Asking for Trouble Now
I kinda felt for Tony Romo. I did. He fumbled away the Boys' playoffs last year and took a pounding when his girlfriend showed up his worst game of the season this year. Poor guy, I thought. Then, he decides to spend his bye-week in Mexico with said girlfriend and her parents. I'm not saying he needed to be running drills every day at Texas Stadium - but if by some miracle the G-men upset the Cowboys this weekend it is all we're gonna hear about - "Why was Romo in Cabo with Jessica instead of prepping for the game." Spend a dirty weekend with your girlfriend, buddy, but don't do in front of the paparazzi!

The Devil is MVP
It was inevitable of course. After the ridiculous season occasioned by his teaming with Randy Moss, all the records, the undefeated season and the supermodel girlfriend, Tom Brady is the MVP. But it wasn't unanimous. One guy actually voted for Brett Favre - presumably because he has less to work with. But by that measure, wouldn't the MVP be Derek Anderson?

Joe Gibbs Retires
He didn't totally destroy his sterling reputation with the coaching comeback - though giving away a win by calling back to back time outs didn't help much. Seeing him on the sidelines, though, you just knew he was thinking "I'm way too old for this shit."

My official pick for the Superbowl:
Here it is, call me crazy - Indianapolis versus Green Bay. Indy wins. Really, that's what I think will happen. Or maybe I just want desperately to believe it. Either way, that's my pick.