Tiger Woods Is Not Normal

Sigh. I don’t think I can resist commenting on the reaction of anyone who is finding themselves profoundly disappointed by the fact that one of the richest, most famous, successful athletes in the world cheated on his wife. I’m not sure what in the long history of philandering sports superstars would actually surprise anyone about Tiger Woods’ marital indiscretion, but I’m constantly amazed by the expectation that professional athletes to adhere to some woefully unrealistic ideal of white collar wholesomeness. To borrow a quote friend of mine, “it’s just disappointing to see that we’re not more than the sum of our urges.”

Believe it or not, I sympathize with the general theme my friend expressed. But not as it applies to people like Tiger Woods. Chuck Klosterman has made a similar point about Gilbert Arenas, but why would anyone expect someone like Tiger Woods to be a normal Joe (and we won’t even get in to the fact that many normal Joes and Janes engage in extramarital dalliances themselves)?

Consider for a moment what makes Tiger Woods so much better than his peers. Sure, here’s a very talented golfer, but more than anything else, other golfers live in constant fear of his competitiveness. You’ve heard all the cliches on TV before, “Tiger never gives in,” or “Tiger just wants it more.” Ask yourself, what kind of person does it take to be so relentlessly competitive, to care that much about winning, to feel such an urge to dominate that anything less than first place, every time is a disappointment? I’ll tell you: not the kind of person you’d expect to be the standard bearer of modest bourgeoisie morality. We’re talking about someone who — to borrow a common descriptor used in sports — is like an animal, a person driven by a near evolutionary impulse to never relent. Why would it be reasonable to expect someone with such a competitive drive to have otherwise flawless impulse control? It’s completely absurd.

To be perfectly clear,  none of this justifies Woods’ actions and I’m not apologizing on Woods’ behalf. There’s little question his actions have been hurtful to his wife and will have lasting repercussions for his children. But it seems odd that people would celebrate Woods’ near inhuman will to dominate in one arena and hold some expectation that he’s an otherwise normal guy. That sort of compartmentalization really would be inhuman.

If you want to root for a normal guy, root for Phil Mickelson.


It’s Not a Bonus If You Get it Anyway

I realize almost any comment that starts with “what’s the deal with…” should probably be stopped there, but honestly, what is the deal with “bonus tracks”? I mean, just who are we fooling here? If it comes with an album you pay for, it’s just part of the album. There’s nothing provably “bonus” about it. It’s just an insult to your intelligence.

Infelicitiously Titled Buildings

The unhappiest building on the block.

This building is worth the whole damn block put together.

Every once in a while, when feeling attuned to my coworker’s aversion to traffic circles (as well he should be — they’re unsafe!), I walk down 15th Street in the morning, and invariably, I pass The Gatsby (pictured above). And I have to say, the naming of this building has always struck me as a bit curious. Of course, I understand the name conjures some vague feeling of opulence (if of the tumid variety), but it’s also worth pointing out that Gatsby was a serially miserable pathological liar who died young, unhappy, and unfulfilled. I suppose they could have gone with The Kurt Cobain or something, but either way, probably not the best thing for a building owner to project.

I Hate Rankings Except For These

Just thought I’d link to the Washington Monthly’s annual university and liberal arts rankings, which unlike U.S. News & World Report rankings, try to measure the positive impact an institution has for the country rather than on the future earnings prospects of its graduates. WaMo base this social value on three rough measurements: social mobility, research, and service to the community.

Anyway, Since a blog post would be nothing without a healthy dose of narcissism and self-indulgence, I’ll take this time to note also that Haverford comes out pretty well at #5. Of course, it’s also worth highlighting any ranking system that puts Duke at #32 33.

The Future of the GOP is Here

Entourage Is A Spent Force

I swear I’m not trying to write about everything Ezra Klein says, but I’ve been having some thoughts about Entourage and want to use this as a starting point:

I don’t know how many “Entourage” fans we have on this blog, but last night’s episode was really the ne plus ultra of the show’s peculiar fantasy world: One of the problems that the characters had to resolve was that too many people were giving Turtle free Ferraris for his birthday.

I can’t decide if Entourage is the perfect show for the recession or a totally doomed enterprise.

I would say totally doomed enterprise. Over the weekend, Bill Simmons’ tweeted his review of Entourage from 2004, which turned out to be remarkably prescient. Here was his theory:

So for “Entourage” to remain interesting for 40 episodes instead of 10, everything rides on E’s character. We need to see him evolve. We need to see him adjust from Queens to Hollywood, get burned by the business a few times, question his one-sided relationship with Vince, fight off his controlling ex-girlfriend, slowly become jaded by the Hollywood experience, and eventually grow apart from the other sidekicks as they start to resent him. We need to see him drink the Hollywood kool-aid, become polluted by every hideous character-changer out here (and believe me, it’s an extensive list).

[…]Hence, the biggest problem with “Entourage”: Because of the casting mistakes, it’s an entertaining show with a built-in ceiling. It can be good, never great. Once the creators (begrudgingly) accept E’s limitations, I worry that the show will evolve like “Sex and the City” did, with the characters becoming more and more one-dimensional, the dialogue more and more forced, the situations more and more ludicrous. Eventually it could become a parody of itself, like the way “Sex and the City” ended up — four spent characters racing to beat each other to the next overwritten punchline.[…]

There’s definitely something to this. Simmons blames much of it on Kevin Connelly’s complete lack of acting ability, but I think the bigger problem is that sustained success just isn’t a very compelling story. If Connelly were somehow a better actor, it’s hard to see how “E” would exude more pathos. I mean, here’s a guy who hits the jackpot, ascends the Hollywood ranks to fortune and local fame, and without really sacrificing anything at all gets to a point where he can complain about girls throwing themselves at him. Would better acting change any of that?

More problematically — and this is a bit circular, I realize — since the characters lack any semblance of personal dynamism (maybe with the exception of Ari), all the entertainment was derived from the situations in which the characters found themselves. Prior to this season, these were at least somewhat accessible. If not in the specific, at least most people understand what it’s like to fail, what it’s like to be granted redemption, and what it’s like to be an underdog. These are common features of the human experience. But, to borrow Ezra’s example, most people are pretty unfamiliar with what it’s like to be given too many cars as a birthday present, and that’s the direction this season seems to be heading. What’s more, the writers can only call wolf so many times. At a certain point, Vince’s teetering on the edge of success and taking one step backwards for every step forwards will simply stop, if it hasn’t already, being believable.

So, with characters who are not only boring but also poorly acted, diminishing returns on absurd situations, and an inability to create believable drama, the show has been reduced to a flashy music video channeling pure male id. Still watchable, but it’s pretty spent.

UPDATE: If I were Bill Simmons and I read this post, I’d argue that that I (me, not Bill Simmons) was making his argument for him. He would say that the show’s trajectory I described was a result of Connelly’s inability to act. That may or may not be true — I think it’s certainly fair to theorize — but I’d still argue the problem was that the show was built on a fundamentally inaccessible premise. Despite my glossing over of E’s character history, the fact is they basically tried to do some of things Simmons outlines and it just didn’t work — not because Connelly and the other didn’t have the chops — but because you could never buy it in the first place.

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The Future of the Republican Party


The Daily Beast has a stunning piece from this month profiling the new chairman of the Young Republicans, Audra Shay. Well, in the same week Sarah Palin takes her first stride towards the GOP nomination, the organization dedicated to maintaining the Republican Party’s future relevance has selected this woman as its leader:

Specifically, a thread where one of her friends posts that ‘Obama Bin Lauden [sic] is the new terrorist… Muslim is on there side [sic]… need to take this country back from all of these mad coons… and illegals,” and Shay responds eight minutes later with: ‘You tell em Eric! lol.’

In October 2008, in the wake of news that an effigy of Sarah Palin was being hung outside an affluent Hollywood home as an offensive Halloween decoration, Shay replied, returning to the ‘LOL’ style that she employed after the “coons” comment: ‘What no ‘Obama in a noose? Come on now, its just freedome [sic] of speech, no one in Atlanta would take that wrong! Lol.’

She picked up the thread again the next morning with a clarification and a new insight. ‘Apparently I could not spell last night. I am wondering if the guys with the Palin noose would care if we had a bunch of homosexuals in a noose.

This is an outrage and I CAN NOT believe this nation has him as our leader! It makes me sick!’ She posted a few minutes later: ‘My disdain for Obama is directly proportionate for his disdain of this country.’

I was truly at a loss after reading the entire piece. With such a large proportion of American identifying as politically independent, it’s absolutely stupefying to watch the GOP’s agenda increasingly articulated by such paranoid, angry and, frankly, hateful people with a greater interest in culture wars than policy.

There’s something truly bizarre about the insularity of this segment of the GOP and their vision for the future. 71% of first time voters supported Obama, as did 66% of voters under 30. Even 54% of white voters under 30 supported Obama. How do Shay and the YR delegates who selected her envision the future? Do they expect a wide proportion of these voters to suddenly become aware of President Obama’s distinctly treasonous attitudes? Do they anticipate patriotism, homosexuality and race to eclipse the economy, Iraq and Health Care as the major electoral issues? As Mike Murphy said in his infamous open mic incident blasting McCain’s VP choice, “It’s like how you win a Texas race—just run it up.”

Even after almost six months of an Obama presidency, the Republican base has maintained a strategy of adolescent name-calling, homophobia, and unmitigated anger in lieu of any contributions to 2009’s myriad problems. From what I can tell, this is not an organized opposition to a set of policies or ideas, per se, but a reaction to the perceived erosion of our values and the elevation of their values. In other words, this is an expression of Shay’s, and her cohorts’, demographic decline—a vacuous exhortation of anger towards the more well educated suburbanites emerging as a larger majority. If you’re wondering why nobody with an ample pedigree or a refined world view has emerged within the Republican Party, it’s because they are the enemy. Good luck in Iowa, Mitt.

And now the Young Republicans will have a chairman who seems to believe President Obama openly exhibits disdain for the United States of America; and this is after he was elected with a decidedly strong majority of Americans, especially under 30. Say what you want about the beliefs Shay and her likeminded friends espouse, but they are utterly detached from the problems and values that shape the United States today.