Saturday, August 8, 2020

On Quarantine and Chill

When life gives you quarantine, make chill. At least, that's been the motto for much of the world for the last however many months it's been. As bad as the epidemic has been for the world, the silver lining (and to be clear, it's a very small silver lining) has been the chance to catch up on and expand my pop culture literacy. Here are my thoughts on what I've been watching during the quarantine, in no particular order.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

On my 2019 College Football Bar Crawl

Last year, I wrote about my experience visiting different college football bars in San Diego throughout the fall. TLDR: In 2018, I was inspired by the Athlon Sports Cover 2 podcast's annual college football in which they map out their dream road trip: pick one game to see every week, under the constraint that you can't see the same game twice. That fall I decided to visit a local watch party for a different college football team every week, and I had so much fun with the project that I decided to do it again the following year. Here's how it went down in 2019.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

On the 2020 Oscars

Last year, for the first time in years, I didn't get around to watching all of the Oscar nominees - but I still got all but one of them. This year, due to a combination of being crazy busy, general apathy, and the inexplicable decision to push the ceremony to the second weekend of February, I didn't even get close to seeing all the movies! I never mustered up much energy to see Ford v Ferrari, Joker, or Jojo Rabbit, and I didn't see Parasite until two days before the ceremony. Similar deal for all of the other awards. In other words, take my entire ballot with a grain of salt.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

On the 2010s movies and TV shows

On the 2010s in movies
Every February I rank the movies that defined the past calendar year. With the decade coming to a close, it felt natural to do the same exercise for the entire 2010s - and to throw in the defining TV shows for good measure. I don't have the energy to do more than write a long list, but I've linked to everything I've written in the past. But before that, some FAQs:

Thursday, July 4, 2019

On my season-long college football bar crawl

One undeniable part of the appeal of sports (to me, at least) is the communal aspect. When the game goes well, it's fun to feed off the energy of others, and when things don't go well there's comfort in numbers and solidarity. No matter how convenient the living room may be, I will never trade it for the roar of a stadium, or even a sports bar, gone wild. I believe this to be exponentially more true with college sports. I think most would agree that college stadiums/arenas are much more raucous than professional ones  - the best professional sports venues are usually described as a "college-like atmosphere". I've always theorized that college sports fandom tend to be more passionate than pro sports fandom, because your college team is the one you chose, as opposed to the one your parents did. Moreover, college is so often such a formative and memorable time of your life that it's easy to see why people retain such a strong emotional bond to their college team. However, I believe that college football fandom reaches an even higher level, because the unique form of sectional pride that gets attached to college football teams. I could go on for hours about the geopolitics of college football, but for your sake, I'll refrain.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

On the 2019 Oscars

I didn't watch many movies this year, due in part to lack of time and energy. Ok it was mostly due to being lazy. That said, here are my thoughts!

The Pics

Game Night

  • This movie is about Max (Jason Bateman) learning that winning isn't about what you accomplish - it's about the people with whom you accomplish it. That's how he goes from being almost voluntarily infertile to putting a bun in Annie's (Rachel McAdams's) oven.
  • This may be heresy, but I think the opening sequence from Game Night is close to the same level as the one from Up. Both concisely tell the story of a life lived to the fullest between soulmates. Also, Game Night is the best movie of the year to feature Don't Stop Me Now.
  • A lesser movie would have made its female lead into a killjoy waiting for her man-child to grow up, all while making you wonder why she was ever into him in the first place. I love that this movie gives Annie a rich personality. She's just as competitive as Max, and she actually complements him rather than just putting up with him - McAdams has a lot of the best lines and gags in the movie. She wants to have a baby but it's not her defining character trait - if Max doesn't want it that's fine, not hard feelings, but she just won't wait around for him.
  • The subplots involving the side characters were really well written - you could describe those subplots without even mentioning Max and Annie and it would still be entertaining.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

On the 2018 College Football Semifinal Results

On Notre Dame vs. Clemson

  • Not that it matters, but I still stand fully behind what I said previously about Notre Dame's defense. When healthy, I think the Irish have elite players in their starting eleven. Early in the game I don't think Notre Dame was overwhelmed physically - they were holding up in man coverage and getting pressure on Trevor Lawrence. Once Julian Love and Julian Okwara (two of their three best players) got injured, the dam broke. The point here is not to make excuses for Notre Dame - I had picked Clemson to win assuming perfect health for both teams. Clemson was clearly the better team, and they had no trouble overcoming the loss of starter Dexter Lawrence. Notre Dame should have played softer coverage when they knew they were down their top corner and pass rusher. My point is, this game didn't tell me that the Irish are total frauds. It told me that they have the high-end talent you expect from a playoff team, but they still lack playoff-caliber depth. I get that it's easier and more fun to throw nuance out the window, but if that's what you're looking for then feel free to read another blog.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

On the 2018-19 College Football Postseason

On Clemson vs. Notre Dame

  • The prevailing consensus for this game seems to be that Notre Dame will be lucky if the game is still winnable at halftime. I understand the skepticism of Notre Dame. I am not as high on them as I was at the midseason - since that time, they have had to eke out close wins against Pitt and USC, and their big wins over Stanford, Virginia Tech, and Michigan look significantly less impressive. Their schedule looked daunting in the preseason, but it ended up being a really bad schedule when Stanford, VaTech, Florida State, and USC all collapsed in the same season. It is fair to say they they haven't been tested against a great or even very good opponent since week 1. And I think to some extent, Alabama's beatdown of Notre Dame in the 2013 Orange Bowl still colors the way many perceive the program. But I caution viewers against underrating this iteration of the Irish. First of all, Notre Dame mostly dominated their schedule - since Ian Book became the starter, they haven't had a single game with a post-game win expectancy below 95%. Second, this team has recruited at a higher overall level than they had in 2012, and they have high draft picks at all levels of the defense (by contrast, I don't think anyone from the 2012 team's secondary was drafted higher than round 6). Since that Alabama game, Notre Dame has beaten LSU twice, and gone blow for blow with three playoff teams (2014 Florida State, 2015 Clemson, and 2017 Georgia). Third, this is a very balanced team that can beat you in many different ways. Their offense isn't elite in any one area, which is why they don't always look like world beaters against mediocre teams. However, with Book under center, it's extremely difficult to stop them completely, and I think their offense will scale better than the spread-to-run offense they were running with Brandon Wimbush.
  • The main reason why I am simply not convinced that game will be a blowout is that I think people are overrating just how good this Clemson team really is. Don't get me wrong, Clemson is elite. They have the best freshman quarterback since Peyton Manning, along with usual stars at wide receiver and defensive line. Travis Etienne may well be the best running back in the country. Their rushing defense is historically good. However, I have major concerns about their passing defense. Their statistics look pretty good because the ACC was pitiful this year - in most games, Clemson's defensive line was able to overwhelm the past protection so badly that the opposing quarterback didn't stand a chance. I also think their games against two triple option teams (Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech) because those teams are disproportionately dependent on being efficient in the run game to be competent in the passing game, and Clemson is hard-wired to shut down power running games. However, their two toughest opponents, Texas A&M and South Carolina, were able to keep their quarterbacks upright and pick apart Clemson's shaky secondary. Had Clemson played a tougher schedule I question whether this game would be viewed as a warm-up for the national championship.